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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 often less severe than bacterial meningitis, and people with normal immune systems usually get better on their own. 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...


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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.


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