Meningitis is a less common but serious infection that causes inflammation of the protective membranes that line your brain and spinal cord. Although the most common forms of the illness are caused by either viral or bacterial infection it can also be caused by fungal infections, parasitic infection, amoebic infection, and even non-infectious forms that are caused by injury to other areas of the body.
Many of the latter forms of the disease mentioned are very rare and mainly happen to people with impaired immune systems with the former form, bacterial, having effective vaccines.
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.
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.
Meningitis symptoms include sudden onset of:
There are often other symptoms, such as
Photophobia (eyes being more sensitive to light)
Altered mental status (confusion)
The symptoms of viral meningitis are very similar however bacterial meningitis is far more severe and can cause complications such as hearing loss and brain damage. Viral meningitis is usually a more mild form of the illness and usually resolves on its own in 7-10 days.
Currently in the United States there are no vaccines approved for viral meningitis causative agents. Bacterial meningitis is caused by a host of different bacteria but there are currently four vaccines targeting the 4 main causative bacteria of bacterial meningitis. Since most cases of meningitis occur in people 60 years and older it is important to remind our loved ones to get vaccinated.