Meningitis Facts

Meningitis and other associated diseases remain a major global challenge.

Meningitis is the inflammation of the tissues (membranes) surrounding the brain.

It is usually caused by infections and are transmitted from person to person.

Bacterial meningitis is the most common dangerous type of meningitis and can be fatal in less than 24 hours.

  • It can affect anyone of all ages but is most common in babies, young children teenagers and young adults.
  • It is also more common in the elderly.
  • It can be very serious if not treated quickly.
  • The bacteria that cause meningitis can also cause blood poisoning, also known as sepsis.
  • A number of vaccinations are available to offer some protection against infections that can cause meningitis.
  • Not all strains of meningitis are vaccine preventable. See Vaccinations
  • The most common strains of bacterial meningitis are: Neisseria meningitidis (meningococcal) serotypes A – B – C – W -Y – & X and Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus)
  • In 1 of 10 cases, it will be fatal and 1 in 7 can be left with lifelong aftereffects and amputations.
  • Bacterial meningitis is rarer but more serious than viral meningitis.

How is meningitis spread

Infections that cause meningitis can be spread through: close personal contact such as sneezing, coughing, kissing.

When to get help

If you know or look after someone who you suspect has meningitis, go to your nearest A & E or call an ambulance. Trust your instincts and do not wait for all the symptoms to appear or until a rash develops.

If you have had advice and are still worried or any of the symptoms get worse, seek medical help again.

Treatments for meningitis and sepsis

People suffering from meningitis will have tests in hospital to confirm the diagnosis and check whether the condition is the result of viral or bacterial infection.

Bacterial meningitis and sepsis need to be treated in hospital sometimes in an intensive care facility and can take at least a week, in extreme cases some people will be hospitalized for much longer.

Treatments include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Fluids given directly into vein
  • Oxygen/Ventilation
  • Viral meningitis tends to get better on its own within 7-10 days and can often be treated at home.
  • Getting plenty of rest and taking painkillers and ant-sickness medication can help relieve the symptoms in the meantime.

Outlook for meningitis and sepsis.

Viral meningitis will usually get better on its own and rarely causes long -term problems, although recurring headaches and fatigue can persist for a while in some people. Most people with bacterial meningitis and sepsis who are treated quickly will
also make a good recovery, although some are left with long term problems.

These can include:

  • Hearing loss. Which may be partial or total.
  • Problems with memory and concentration
  • Recurrent seizures (epilepsy)
  • Co-ordination, movement and balance problems
  • Loss of limbs (amputations)
It is estimated that up to 1 in every 10 cases will be fatal.

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