Meningitis is an inflammation (swelling) of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. A bacterial or viral infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord usually causes the swelling. However, injuries, cancer, certain drugs, and other types of infections also can cause meningitis. It is important to know the specific cause of meningitis because the treatment differs depending on the cause.
How it Spreads
Generally, the germs that cause bacterial meningitis spread from one person to another. Certain germs can spread through food. How people spread the germs often depends on the type of bacteria. Read about common examples of how people spread the different types of bacteria to each other.
People can spread the viruses that cause viral meningitis to other people. If you have close contact with someone who has viral meningitis, they may spread the virus to you. However, you are not likely to develop meningitis. That’s because most people infected with these viruses will not develop meningitis.
Five College Consortium
The Five College consortium in Massachusetts (MA) is experiencing an outbreak of serogroup B meningococcal disease. The MA Department of Public health recommends vaccination to students at all five schools.
- Learn more from Amherst College.
- Learn more from Hampshire College.
- Learn more from Mount Holyoke College.
- Learn more from Smith College.
- Learn more from UMass Amherst.
Oregon State University
Oregon State University (OSU) has an ongoing outbreak of serogroup B meningococcal disease. Students should check with OSU about requirements to get vaccinated with a serogroup B meningococcal vaccine. Learn more from OSU.
Meningitis Versus Meningococcal Disease:
There IS a Difference
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 illness caused by a type of bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis. These illnesses are serious and include meningitis and bloodstream infections (septicemia). More about meningococcal disease…
Resources for Healthcare Professionals
Get clinical disease information, as well as vaccine recommendations and vaccination resources, for common causes of meningitis.
- Page last reviewed: April 10, 2017
- Page last updated: April 9, 2018
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