Author’s Bio: Ria Ellendula is an incoming college freshman who is passionate about public health and healthcare policy.

What Is Meningitis?

According to WebMD, Meningitis is a rare infection that affects the meninges (three membranes — the dura mater, arachnoid, and pia mater — that line the skull and vertebral canal and are made up of the brain and spinal cord). There are fewer than 200,000 cases in the United States per year.
Is it contagious?

While some types of meningitis are contagious, other types aren’t. For example, Fungal meningitis is not contagious as it mainly affects people with poor immune systems. Parasitic and non-infectious meningitis are not contagious. However, viral and bacterial meningitis can spread through airborne droplets. 

Types of Meningitis

Bacterial meningitis

Bacterial meningitis can be caused by many types of bacteria, namely:
  • Pneumococcus
  • Meningococcus
  • Listeria monocytogenes (occurs in older people, those with immunodeficiencies, and pregnant women)
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) (known to infect babies and young children)

Bacterial types of meningitis enter the bloodstream through different canals, such as the sinuses, ears, and throat. After entering the bloodstream, the bacteria travels to the brain. This type of meningitis spreads by airborne droplets (coughs, sneezes, etc.)

Viral meningitis

This is a more common and less severe form of meningitis. Viruses that can trigger meningitis are known as enteroviruses. Others include herpes, HIV, mumps virus, and West Nile virus. 

Fungal meningitis

This is a much less common form of meningitis that usually stems from other problems to the immune system, such as AIDS. 

Parasitic meningitis

This form is rare and triggered by parasites that usually use animals as hosts. This is why it’s important to be cautious of any animals you consume. Consuming animals like snails, slugs, snakes, fish, or poultry puts you at high risk due to their susceptibility to parasites. This risk also comes with raw or undercooked food; however, it cannot be transmitted to other people.

Amoebic meningitis

This form occurs when a certain type of amoeba, known as Naegleria fowleri, enters the brain. It can enter the brain if you are swimming in areas where the amoeba lives, such as lakes. Although very rare, this form is usually a fatal infection. 

Non-infectious meningitis

This form may be a side-effect of developing diseases such as cancer or lupus. It can also be a byproduct of head injuries, brain surgery, or certain medications. It is not contagious.

Chronic meningitis

This form of meningitis is prolonged and developed over extensive periods of time. It can take place as a result of fungal infections or mycobacteria. These organisms enter the cerebrospinal fluids surrounding the brain and skull to cause meningitis. 

Meningitis Causes

It always starts from a bacterial or viral infection that occurs in a specific body part (ears, sinuses, throat, etc.)

Other causes of meningitis include:
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Syphilis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Cancer medications

Although anyone is susceptible to meningitis, certain groups are at a much higher risk of getting infected. These groups include:
  • Children under 5
  • People aged 16-25
  • Adults over 55

Meningitis Symptoms

Meningitis symptoms vary based on the age of the patient and type of diagnosis.

Common symptoms include:
  • Confusion
  • Fever
  • Headache (can be severe)
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Seizures
  • Numbness in your face
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Drowsiness
  • Lack of appetite or thirst
  • Stiff neck (makes you unable to lower chin to chest)
  • Upset stomach/vomiting
  • Skin rash (occurs as a result of meningococcal meningitis)

Symptoms in infants include:
  • High fever
  • Constant crying
  • Poor ability to feed
  • Crankiness
  • Excessive drowsiness/sleepiness
  • Stiff neck or body
  • Bulginging on the top of the head

Meningitis Treatment

Meningitis Diagnosis

When testing to see if you have meningitis, you should inform your doctor of your medical history and perform a physical exam (neck stiffness and skin rashes can be indicators for bacterial infections)

Tests will also include:
  • Blood tests to identify bacteria
  • Spinal tap (needle will acquire fluid from spinal cord)
  • CT or MRI scans to locate swelling or inflammation in the head  



In-hospital treatment is highly recommended for all cases of bacterial meningitis, as well as many types of viral meningitis.

Treatments include:
  • Antibiotics given directly into the vein
  • Fluids given to the vein to prevent dehydration
  • Oxygen through a face mask if there are breathing difficulties
  • Steroid medication to reduce brain swelling

Treatment can last anywhere from a couple of days to weeks depending on the severity of the case. If complications arise, additional treatment and long-term support may be necessary.

At home

While at home, you can cope with symptoms of meningitis by:

  • Getting plenty of rest
  • Taking painkillers for a headache or general aches
  • Take anti-sickness medicine for any vomiting 
According to the CDC, vaccines can help prevent meningococcal disease, which is a bacterial form of meningitis caused by the Neisseria meningitidis bacteria. There are currently two available types of vaccines in the United States to treat these, and they are:

  • Meningococcal conjugate or MenACWY vaccines (Menactra and Menveo)
  • Serogroup B meningococcal or MenB vaccines (Bexsero and Trumenba)

The CDC has a recommended schedule for each meningitis vaccine:

  • 11-12 year olds should receive a meningococcal conjugate vaccine with a booster dose at 16 years old.
  • 16-23 year olds should receive a serogroup B meningococcal vaccine
  • Those who are 10 years or older with an increased risk for the disease should receive the vaccine

Meningitis Prevention

You can prevent meningitis by avoiding infection from a bacteria or virus. Since infections are spread by airborne droplets, there are many relatively simple steps that can be taken to prevent it in the first place.

You can:  
  • Wash hands often (for at least 30 seconds)
  • Don’t share hygiene items such as toothbrushes, eating utensils, or lipstick
  • Don’t share foods or drinks
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze
  • Stay healthy
  • Eat well-cooked food
  • Get your immunization shots

Online Doctor Consultation For Meningitis

If you or someone in your family have concerns about meningitis, please contact and seek help from our doctors online. At Home Urgent Care provides telehealth services so you can safely and confidently keep your health in check with our primary and urgent care services and get treatment online. Book an online doctor appointment today with our health care experts available at your convenience 365 days a year and get your prescription/medication available online.

Book an Appointment

Online Doctor Appointment - At Home Urgent Care

Step 1

Call or Book your online Doctor Visit

Online Doctor Appointment - At Home Urgent Care

Step 2

Talk to a doctor over the Phone/ Tablet

Online Doctor Appointment - At Home Urgent Care

Step 3

If needed pick up your medication at the pharmacy