(bak-TEE-ree-ul meh-nin-JY-tus) is an inflammation of the meninges that's caused by
More to Know
Meningitis happens when the meninges, the membranes that cover the brain
and spinal cord, become infected, usually by bacteria
or viruses. Bacterial meningitis is rare, but is usually serious and can be life-threatening
if not treated right away.
Anyone can get bacterial meningitis, but it's more common among groups of people
who are living in close contact, like college students. Newborn babies exposed to
their mothers' illnesses during delivery also can sometimes develop meningitis.
Many different types of bacteria can cause bacterial meningitis. Bacteria that
infect the skin, urinary tract,
or gastrointestinal and respiratory systems can spread via the bloodstream to the
meninges through cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), the fluid that circulates in and around
the spinal cord. In some cases of bacterial meningitis, the bacteria spread to the
meninges from a severe head trauma or a severe local infection, such as a serious
ear infection (otitis
media) or nasal sinus infection (sinusitis).
A person with bacterial meningitis might have fever, headache, stiff neck, sensitivity
to light, extreme tiredness, irritability, nausea, and vomiting.
Untreated bacterial meningitis can lead to seizures, coma, and death. Treatment,
which should be started as soon as possible, includes using antibiotics to fight the