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Department of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Meningitis (Meningococcal Disease)

Meningitis Topic Home


Meningitis is an infection of the fluid of a person's spinal cord and the fluid that surrounds the brain. People sometimes refer to it as spinal meningitis.

Is it Viral or Bacterial?

Meningitis is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Knowing whether meningitis is caused by a virus or bacterium is important because the severity of illness and the treatment differ. Viral meningitis is generally less severe and resolves without specific treatment, while bacterial meningitis can be quite severe and may result in brain damage, hearing loss, or learning disability. It also is important to know which type of bacteria is causing the meningitis because antibiotics can prevent some types from spreading and infecting other people. See causes of meningitis...


Bacterial Meningitis

  • Meningococcal Disease
    Answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs), and links to technical and clinical information, articles, references, and other websites
  • Bacterial Meningitis Overview
    Provides overview of causes and symptoms of bacterial meningitis with links to additional resources
  • Meningococcal Vaccination
    Goes to CDC's Vaccines site which provides details about the meningococcal vaccine, plus resources for health consumers and healthcare professionals
  • Control and Prevention
    Provides recommendations for prevention and control with links to vaccine and infection control guidelines
  • In College Students
    Provides links to resources, including vaccine recommendations, guidelines, and information from the American College Health Association (ACHA)
  • Meningitis and Travel
    Provides links to CDC’s Travelers’ Health website on meningococcal disease and guidelines for management of exposed airline passengers
  • In the Laboratory
    View the manual for Laboratory Methods for the Diagnosis of Meningococcal Disease
  • In Other Countries
    Offers links to websites for the World Health Organization (WHO), United Kingdom Department of Health, and CDC’s Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response strategy
  • Causes of Bacterial Meningitis
    There are several causes of bacterial meningitis, including Neisseria meningitides, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Group B streptococcal disease, and Haemophilus influenzae serotype b (Hib)

Viral Meningitis

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This page last modified on May 28, 2008
Content last reviewed on May 28, 2008
Content Source: National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases

Safer Healthier People

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 1600 Clifton Rd, Atlanta, GA 30333, U.S.A
Public Inquiries: 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636); 1-888-232-6348 (TTY)