Meningitis occurs when the membranes (meninges) and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) — which protect and surround the brain and spinal cord — become inflamed. There are two types of meningitis: viral and bacterial. Viral meningitis is the most common, and can occur suddenly or slowly over a period of weeks or more. Bacterial meningitis is typically the most serious, and is caused by a bacterial infection.
Viral and bacterial meningitis can lead to potentially life-threatening complications. If you or a loved one have symptoms of meningitis in Arizona, at Dignity Health for prompt care.
The symptoms of bacterial meningitis are usually severe, and may include:
- High fever
- Neck stiffness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sensitivity to light
- Loss of consciousness
- Changes in mental status or behavior
The symptoms of viral meningitis are generally the same as bacterial, but usually not as severe. Infants with viral meningitis may be fussy, have a bulging soft spot, or not want to eat.
You should get immediate medical care if you have viral or bacterial meningitis. Bacterial meningitis can progress quickly and lead to death within days.
With prompt action, these conditions can be diagnosed and treated before complications arise.
Viral meningitis is often caused by enteroviruses — common viruses that are spread through hand-to-mouth contact and coughing — as well as by contact with fecal matter of an infected person. Bacterial meningitis are caused by bacteria spread through coughing sneezing, and kissing. This typically happens with people who live very close to one another, such as in college dormitories or military barracks.
Meningitis Treatment & Prevention at Dignity Health
Treatment for both viral and bacterial meningitis usually focuses on rest, fluids, and pain-relieving medication. Since antibiotics do not work against viruses, doctors at Dignity Health sometimes use antiviral drugs for some types of viral meningitis. Treatment for bacterial meningitis may include hospitalization, usually in an intensive care unit, antibiotics given through an IV, and monitoring for complications such as brain swelling, seizures, and coma.
Ways to prevent viral meningitis include regular hand washing, especially after using the bathroom, changing diapers, or before eating or touching your mouth. The best way to prevent bacterial meningitis is to get the meningococcal vaccine. If you have not received this, talk to your doctor about this vaccination at your next appointment. Dignity Health extends compassionate care to diagnose and treat all types of meningitis in Arizona, as part of our emergency services.