Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Meningitis is caused by a range of viruses and bacteria

Meningitis is caused by a range of viruses and bacteria
beginning of content

Meningitis

Meningitis is an inflammation of the membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord that is commonly caused by an infection. Meningitis can be a life-threatening illness so urgent medical treatment is needed.

What is meningitis?

Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges. The meninges are the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

The most common symptoms of meningitis are fever, headache, vomiting, loss of appetite, tiredness, drowsiness or altered consciousness, irritability stiff neck and sensitivity to light. Some people with meningitis can have seizures. Some people find their hearing or vision are affected.

Meningitis is caused by a range of viruses and bacteria. Very occasionally, it’s caused by a fungus or parasite. It’s usually spread from person to person through close contact, such as coughing, sneezing, kissing or sharing personal items.

Treatment and recovery

The two main types of meningitis are viral and bacterial meningitis.

There is no particular treatment available for viral meningitis, and most people make a rapid and full recovery with rest and extra fluids.

Bacterial meningitis is usually more severe and often requires treatment in hospital with intravenous antibiotics. A particularly worrying type of bacterial meningitis is meningococcal meningitis. It can be life-threatening without treatment - see below.

Recovery from bacterial meningitis can take a long time, and occasionally can lead to long-term problems, such as hearing loss or brain damage.

Meningitis and meningococcal disease

Meningococcal disease is caused by

The symptoms of meningitis in babies and young children include: fever, food refusal, fretfulness, drowsiness, purple-red skin rash or bruising, high moaning cry, light sensitivity and pale or blotchy skin.

Symptoms in older children and adults include; headache, fever, vomiting, neck stiffness and joint pains, drowsiness and confusion, purple-red skin rash or bruising and light sensitivity.

Meningococcal disease is a medical emergency. It can kill within hours, so early diagnosis and treatment is vital. Do not wait for the purple rash to appear as that is a critical stage of the disease.

If you are worried that you or someone you care for may have meningitis, see your doctor immediately. If your doctor is not available, go to your nearest emergency department.

Read more about meningococcal disease.

Last reviewed: November 2016

Recommended links

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 201 results

Viral meningitis | Public Health

Read more on Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services website

Meningitis

Meningitis Category: Brain, Spinal Cord and Nerve Health Topic: Brain Infections and Parasites Send by email View as PDF Send by post The brain is covered by thin tissues called 'meninges'

Read more on Queensland Health website

Meningitis

Meningitis can cause death and requires urgent medical attention.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Amoebic meningitis

Amoebic meningitis is a disease that causes inflammation and eventual destruction of the brain and brain linings. It is rare but usually fatal.

Read more on WA Health website

Viral meningitis

Viral meningitis is an infection of the membranes (linings) that cover the brain and spinal cord. A variety of viruses can cause meningitis, including those that cause gastroenteritis, measles, mumps, chicken pox and herpes.

Read more on WA Health website

Meningitis in children - myDr.com.au

Meningitis means inflammation of the meninges - the lining around the brain and spinal cord. It is usually caused by a bacterial or viral infection.

Read more on myDr website

Meningitis - myDr.com.au

Meningitis: what is it, what causes it and what are the symptoms? Find out all you need to know, plus risk factors, treatment and prevention.

Read more on myDr website

Parenting and Child Health - Health Topics - Meningitis

Meningitis is an infection around the brain and spinal cord (meninges). It can be caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites (amoeba).

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Meningitis: signs and symptoms - myDr.com.au

Meningitis can occur suddenly and requires immediate treatment by a doctor. Here are the signs and symptoms to look out for.

Read more on myDr website

Meningitis in babies and children | Raising Children Network

Meningitis is an emergency. Symptoms include headache, sore neck and sensitivity to light. If you think your child has meningitis, go straight to hospital.

Read more on Raising Children Network website

Check your symptoms Find a health service

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback