Public Health Fact Sheet
What is Bacterial Meningitis?
Bacterial Meningitis is an infection in the fluid around the spinal cord and brain caused by a bacteria. It causes fever, headache, stiff neck, confusion, and difficulty breathing. It can also have long lasting permanent effects such as seizures, physical and mental delays, hearing, vision and speech problems and in some cases death. There are many kinds of bacteria that can cause meningitis. Anyone at any age can get meningitis.
How is Bacterial Meningitis spread?
It is spread through the respiratory droplets of an infected person when they cough or sneeze. It can also be spread by direct contact with nose or throat discharges of an infected person through kissing, sharing drinking glasses or eating utensils for example.
How long after exposure until symptoms begin?
The first signs of illness usually appear 2-10 days after exposure.
What do I do if I am exposed or notice symptoms?
If you have been directly exposed to someone with bacterial meningitis, consult your doctor immediately.
How is Bacterial Meningitis treated?
Bacterial Meningitis generally requires hospitalization and antibiotic therapy. Sometimes, household members and close contacts are also treated with antibiotics to prevent the disease.
How can Bacterial Meningitis be prevented?
There are vaccines that can be given to prevent certain types of Bacterial Meningitis. HIB and PCV13 or Prevnar vaccines are recommended as routine childhood vaccines to prevent haemophilus meningitis and pneumoccal meningitis. A MenACWY vaccine is recommended during adolescence to prevent several different types of meningitis.
Handwashing is important, especially after touching any oral or nasal secretions. Avoid sharing food, beverages, eating utensils, toothbrushes, etc. Practice healthy habits such as covering your mouth when sneezing and coughing, throw away used tissues immediately and practice good handwashing and use alcohol based hand sanitizers when available.
Symptoms of Bacterial Meningitis
- High fever
- Severe headache
- Stiff neck and back
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sensitivity to bright light
- Difficulty breathing
- Shock or coma