Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to site content Skip directly to page options
CDC Home

Meningitis

Meningitis is a disease caused by the inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord known as the meninges. The inflammation is usually caused by an infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

Meningitis may develop in response to a number of causes, usually bacteria or viruses, but meningitis can also be caused by physical injury, cancer or certain drugs.

The severity of illness and the treatment for meningitis differ depending on the cause. Thus, it is important to know the specific cause of meningitis.


There are 5 "types" of meningitis

Teenage boy with headacheBacterial Meningitis

Caused by bacteria, like Neisseria meningitidis and Streptococcus pneumoniae. It can be a life-threatening infection that needs immediate medical attention. There are vaccines to prevent some kinds of bacterial meningitis.

Boy getting vaccinated.Viral Meningitis

Caused by viruses, like enteroviruses, arboviruses and herpes simplex viruses. It’s serious, but rarely fatal in people with normal immune systems and depending upon the virus involved. There are vaccines to prevent some kinds of viral meningitis.

Group of teenagersFungal Meningitis

Caused by fungi like Cryptococcus and Histoplasma. Usually acquired by inhaling fungal spores from the environment. People with certain medical conditions like diabetes, cancer, or HIV are at higher risk of fungal meningitis.

Parasitic meningitisParasitic Meningitis

Caused by parasites and less common in developed countries. Parasites, like Angiostrongylus cantonensis can contaminate food, water and soil.

Doctor consoling patient before surgeryNon-infectious Meningitis

Not spread from person to person, but can be caused by cancers, systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus), certain drugs, head injury, and brain surgery.

Meningitis versus Meningococcal Disease: there IS a difference

Sick boy

Having meningitis doesn't always mean you have meningococcal disease. And having meningococcal disease doesn’t necessarily mean you have meningitis. Meningococcal disease is any infection caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis, or meningococcus. Any infection caused by that bacteria is known as meningococcal disease. One serious infection it can cause is meningococcal meningitis. More about meningococcal disease...

 

Images and logos on this website which are trademarked/copyrighted or used with permission of the trademark/copyright or logo holder are not in the public domain. These images and logos have been licensed for or used with permission in the materials provided on this website. The materials in the form presented on this website may be used without seeking further permission. Any other use of trademarked/copyrighted images or logos requires permission from the trademark/copyright holder...more

External Web Site Policy This graphic notice means that you are leaving an HHS Web site. For more information, please see the Exit Notification and Disclaimer policy.

 

Meningitis Podcast

Meningitis Podcast

This podcast gives a general overview of meningitis, including what it is, the five types, and the causes. Listen to the podcast.

 

Contact Us:
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    1600 Clifton Rd
    Atlanta, GA 30333
  • 800-CDC-INFO
    (800-232-4636)
    TTY: (888) 232-6348
    Contact CDC-INFO
USA.gov: The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   1600 Clifton Road Atlanta, GA 30329-4027, USA
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: (888) 232-6348 - Contact CDC–INFO
A-Z Index
  1. A
  2. B
  3. C
  4. D
  5. E
  6. F
  7. G
  8. H
  9. I
  10. J
  11. K
  12. L
  13. M
  14. N
  15. O
  16. P
  17. Q
  18. R
  19. S
  20. T
  21. U
  22. V
  23. W
  24. X
  25. Y
  26. Z
  27. #