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Meningitis

Meningitis is a serious and sometimes deadly infection. Both viruses and bacteria can cause meningitis.

  • Bacterial Meningitis: This type of meningitis is extremely serious and can kill in as little as a few hours. Several different types of bacteria cause meningitis and are spread person to person. While most people, including from mother to child during birth.
  • Viral Meningitis: This type of meningitis is the most common and is less severe than bacterial meningitis. Most people will recover from viral meningitis on their own.

There are also more rare types of meningitis caused by funguses, parasites, and amoebas.

Symptoms of meningitis usually appear very suddenly and include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Photophobia (light sensitivity)
  • Confusion

Newborns and babies may have different symptoms, including:

  • Being slow or inactive
  • Being irritable
  • Vomiting
  • Feeding poorly
  • Bulging fontanelle (the soft spot on an infant’s head)
  • Abnormal reflexes

The symptoms of bacterial meningitis usually show up 3 – 7 days after being exposed. Bacterial meningitis progresses very quickly. Later symptoms can be very serious, including seizure and coma.

Bacterial meningitis can be fatal; it is extremely important to call your doctor right away if your child has any early symptoms.

Meningitis can be very serious:

  • 10 – 14% of people with meningitis will die
  • 11 – 19% of people with meningitis will have permanent disabilities.

Risks of meningitis include seizures and permanent neurological damage, including:

  • Hearing loss
  • Memory difficulty
  • Learning disabilities
  • Brain damage
  • Gait problems
  • Seizures
  • Kidney failure
  • Shock
  • Death

Different illnesses can cause meningitis and several vaccines that protect against them. There are 2 kinds of meningococcal vaccines (MCV4 and MenB). These vaccines are about 85-90% effective in preventing meningococcal disease. These vaccines together protect against the five most common strains of meningococcal bacteria found in the U.S.

Both the Meningococcal conjugate vaccine and the Meningococcal B vaccine are very safe, and serious side effects are extremely rare. About half of the people who get the vaccine will have pain/redness where the vaccine was given or a mild fever.

Different infections can cause complications, including meningitis. It is important to protect your family from all the diseases that can cause meningitis. Talk to your healthcare provider about which vaccines your family members need:

  • Meningococcal conjugate vaccine: First dose at 11 – 12 year old of age with a booster dose at 16 years old. Teens and young adults (16 – 23 years of age) also may get a serogroup B meningococcal vaccine.
  • Meningococcal B vaccine: The MenB vaccine should be given to teenagers between 16 – 18 years of age.

Is your child due for a meningitis vaccine? Read our Meningococcal vaccines fact sheet to prepare for your appointment.

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Meningitis can be easily misdiagnosed early on. The longer it goes untreated, the more serious the complications – including death within 24 hours. Even with treatment, 10% of people with meningitis will die, and 1 in 5 people will have permanent disability. The effects are devastating, so why risk it, and you can protect against meningitis.
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