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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.


Doctor with patient.
Bacterial Meningitis

Bacterial meningitis is contagious. The bacteria are spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions (i.e., by kissing).

Viral Meningitis

If you have close contact with a person who has viral meningitis, you may become infected with the virus that made that person sick. However, you are not likely to develop meningitis as a complication of the illness.

Meningococcal Disease at Santa Clara University

Cases of serogroup B meningococcal disease have been reported at Santa Clara University in California. Learn more from Santa Clara University and the Santa Clara County Public Health Department.

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...

Resources for Healthcare Professionals

Healthcare resources

Clinical disease information, as well as vaccine recommendations and vaccination resources, for common causes of meningitis.


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.