What is Meningitis?

Meningitis is an infection of the meninges, which are membranes that surround the central nervous system. It can be caused by either a virus or bacteria, and it has the potential to be fatal if not treated promptly.

There are two types of meningitis:

  • Bacterial Meningitis – Though rare, can be potentially fatal. This type is spread through respiratory secretions, like coughing and kissing.
  • Viral Meningitis -More common than bacterial meningitis, and caused by a virus, this type is rarely life threatening and is spread through coughing, sneezing or poor hygiene.  Certain insects, like mosquitos and ticks may also carry the disease which can spread to humans when they are bitten.


Symptoms may present differently for each patient and depend on the progression of the disease and where patients are in the course of treatment. 

Common symptoms include:

  • High fever
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Stiff neck
  • Confusion
  • Joint aches or pains
  • Drowsiness
  • Seizures


Meningitis can be diagnosed by our neurology team who combines diagnostic tests such as blood analysis, spinal fluid analysis and brain imaging with the patient’s medical history and a physical examination.

Testing includes: 

  • Lumbar puncture (spinal tap). A needle is inserted into the spinal canal at the lower back, to measure the pressure in the spinal canal and brain. A small amount of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) can be removed and tested for infection or other problems. CSF is the fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord. 
  • Blood testing. Blood is collected and tested for infection.
  • Computed tomography scan (also called a CT or CAT scan). This procedure uses X-rays and a computer to make images (often called slices) of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.


Bacterial meningitis is treated with supportive therapy and antibiotics aimed at minimizing symptoms. Viral meningitis cannot be treated with medications.
Meningitis patients should be closely monitored during treatment with follow-up MRIs and blood tests.