Meningitis is an Inflammation of brain and spinal cord membranes, typically caused by an infection. Meningitis is usually caused by a viral infection but can also be bacterial or fungal. Vaccines can prevent some forms of meningitis. Symptoms include headache, fever, and stiff neck.There are often other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, photophobia (eyes being more sensitive to light), and altered mental status (confusion). Symptoms of bacterial meningitis can appear quickly or over several days. Typically they develop within 3 to 7 days after exposure. Later symptoms of bacterial meningitis can be very serious (e.g., seizures, coma). For this reason, anyone who thinks they may have meningitis should see a doctor as soon as possible.
Depending on the cause, meningitis may get better on its own, or it can be life-threatening, requiring urgent antibiotic treatment.
How do you get bacterial meningitis?
In many cases, bacterial meningitis starts when bacteria get into your bloodstream from your sinuses, ears, or throat. The bacteria travel through your bloodstream to your brain. The bacteria that cause meningitis can spread when people who are infected cough or sneeze.
Vaccines are the most effective way to protect against certain types of bacterial meningitis. There are vaccines for 3 types of bacteria that can cause meningitis:
- Meningococcal vaccines help protect against N. meningitidis
- Pneumococcal vaccines help protect against S. pneumoniae
- Hib vaccines help protect against Hib
Make sure you and your child are vaccinated on schedule.
Like with any vaccine, the vaccines that protect against these bacteria are not 100% effective. The vaccines also do not protect against all the types (strains) of each bacteria. For these reasons, there is still a chance vaccinated people can develop bacterial meningitis.