What is bacterial meningitis?

Bacterial meningitis is an infection, caused by bacteria, of the sac surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Typical symptoms include headache, sensitivity to light, and neck stiffness. Fever is often present.

Bacterial Meningitis Spotlight

Most cases of acute bacterial meningitis can be cured with appropriate antibiotic therapy. Identifying the type of bacteria present can be important when choosing which type of antibiotic to use, although therapy is often started right away with a powerful broad-spectrum antibiotic. Luckily, the most common and serious types of acute bacterial meningitis can be prevented through vaccination.

Currently, Streptococcus pneumoniae is the most common cause of bacterial meningitis. Haemophilus influenzae type b (also known as Hib) used to be the most common, but the recommendation for routine vaccination of children has greatly reduced its incidence. The second most common cause of bacterial meningitis is Neisseria meningitidis. In the United States, approximately 6,000 people are diagnosed with pneumococcal meningitis, and 2,600 with meningococcal meningitis, each year.

Bacterial meningitis is a serious disease that can be life threatening. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for symptoms such as severe headache, unusual neck stiffness, high fever, confusion, lethargy, loss or change in level of consciousness, seizure, and unusual irritability in a small child.


What are the symptoms of bacterial meningitis?

Inflammation accounts for some of the key symptoms of bacterial meningitis, such as headache, sensitivity to light, and neck stiffness.

Common symptoms of bacterial meningitis

Common symptoms of bacterial meningitis include:


What causes bacterial meningitis?

The most common causes of bacterial meningitis include Haemophilus influenzae type b (also known as Hib), Neisseria meningitidis, and Streptococcus pneumoniae, although Haemophilus influenzae type b is not as common as it once was due to vaccination practices. Other bacteria that can cause bacterial meningitis include Escherichia coli, group B streptococci, Listeria monocytogenes... Read more about bacterial meningitiscauses


How is bacterial meningitis treated?

The best treatment for acute meningitis is avoiding it in the first place. Effective vaccines have been developed against the three most common causes of bacterial meningitis, Haemophilus influenzae type b, Neisseria meningitidis, and Streptococcus pneumonia.

Treatment for bacterial meningitis

Treatment of bacterial meningitis requires timely treatment with antibio... Read more about bacterial meningitistreatments

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Jul 30, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Infections and Contagious Diseases

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