Meningitis is a bacterial or viral infection that causes three thin layers of tissue that surround the brain and the spinal cord to swell. Doctors at Boston Children's Hospital have been leaders and innovators in the treatment of meningitis complications for decades.

  • viral meningitis is more common and less severe
  • bacterial meningitis may cause long term complications, including death
  • vaccines help prevent some forms of bacterial meningitis
  • treatment for bacterial meningitis includes antibiotics
  • there is no treatment for viral; most children recover on their own
  • early treatment can help prevent serious problems

How Boston Children’s Hospital approaches meningitis

Boston Children’s is constantly working to prevent, identify and treat meningitis is a more effective way. Some innovations by Children’s include:

  • Development of the Haemophilus influenzae b (Hib) vaccine in 1990 has practically eliminated the most common cause of bacterial meningitis in children.
  • A simple algorithm developed at Boston Children’s and the University of California, Davis, Health System in 2007 helps doctors rapidly distinguish infants and children with viral meningitis from those with bacterial meningitis—potentially reducing unnecessary hospital admissions and prolonged antibiotic treatment.
  • The Children’s Hospital Informatics Program created HealthMap, an online resource and smart phone app that helps track the spread of contagious diseases in real time, including meningitis.