What is Meningitis?

May 30, 2023

Authorities in US and Mexico recently appealed to the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare a public health emergency over a fungal meningitis outbreak.

About Meningitis:

  • Meningitis is an inflammation (swelling) of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. These membranes are called meninges.
  • The most common causes of meningitis are viral and bacterial infections. Other causes may include:
    • cancer
    • fungi
    • drug-induced reactions
  • Transmission: Infections that cause meningitis can be spread through sneezing and coughing.
  • Symptoms:
    • Common symptoms of meningitis are neck stiffness, fever, confusion or altered mental status, headaches, nausea and vomiting.
    • Less frequent symptoms are seizures, coma and neurological deficits (for example hearing or vision loss, cognitive impairment, or weakness of the limbs).
    • Types of meningitis caused by viruses or bacteria can have similar symptoms. Symptoms may be stronger in some types of meningitis than in others and require different treatment. 
  • Treatment and Prevention:
    • Meningitis is a medical emergency. It is potentially fatal within 24 hours and requires urgent medical attention.
    • Meningitis can vary in severity, appropriate treatment and care depending on the cause. Meningitis caused by bacteria requires immediate antibiotic treatment.
    • Vaccines offer the best protection against common types of bacterial meningitis.
    • Antibiotics for close contacts of those with meningococcal disease, when given promptly, decreases the risk of transmission.