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What is meningitis?
Meningitis is a bacterial or viral infection that causes the membranes that surround the brain and the spinal cord to swell.
Types of meningitis
There are several types of meningitis, including:
What causes meningitis?
Meningitis is usually caused by a bacterial or viral infection that invades the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF), the fluid within the open spaces of the brain that protect and cushion the brain and spinal cord. A fungus or parasite may also cause meningitis. More specifically:
Bacteria that can cause meningitis
Viruses that can cause meningitis
Other microorganisms that can cause meningitis:
Bacterial meningitis can be spread through coughing or sneezing, kissing, or sharing drinks. In addition, you increase your chances of catching menigitis by:
Is meningitis common?
About 3,000 people in the United States—or one in 100,000—are diagnosed with bacterial meningitis each year, most of them infants, children, college students and the elderly.
Incidences of bacterial meningitis usually peak in the winter or early spring. The most common cause of bacterial meningitis in children, Haemophilus influenzae b (Hib), has been almost eliminated due to a vaccine that was developed at Children’s in 1990.
What are the symptoms of meningitis?
The symptoms of meningitis vary depending on what that caused the infection and the age of your child. They also may surface several days after your child has had a cold and runny nose, or diarrhea and vomiting. Your child may not display all of the signs and symptoms, but if you think your child is sick, seek medical attention immediately.
The most symptoms common include:
In infants (symptoms may be difficult to identify)
In children older than 1 year
Can you prevent meningitis?
Several vaccines are available to prevent some of the bacterial organisms that can cause meningitis, including:
We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”