Meningitis, also called spinal meningitis, is inflammation of the thin tissue that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, called the meninges. There are several types of meningitis. The most common is viral meningitis, which you get when a virus enters the body through the nose or mouth and travels to the brain. Bacterial meningitis is rare, but can be deadly. It usually starts with bacteria that cause a cold-like infection. It can block blood vessels in the brain and lead to stroke and brain damage. It can also harm other organs. Pneumococcal infections and meningococcal infections can cause bacterial meningitis.
Anyone can get meningitis, but it is more common in people whose bodies have trouble fighting infections. Meningitis can progress rapidly. You should seek medical care quickly if you experience the following symptoms:
- Sudden fever
- Severe headache
- Stiff neck
Early treatment can help prevent serious problems, including death. Vaccines can prevent some of the bacterial infections that cause meningitis. Parents of adolescents and students living in college dorms should talk to a doctor about the vaccination.
Source: National Institutes of Health (NIH): National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke