Bacterial meningitis is undoubtedly the most serious type of meningitis, which can often lead to disability and even death.  It affects the meninges, the membranes located around the brain and spinal cord and are responsible for protection of the central nervous system.

Everything You Should Know About Meningitis

  • In the U.S. there were around 4,100 cases of bacterial meningitis from 2003 to 2007, of which about 500 were fatal.
  • Bacterial type is the second most common type viral meningitis.
  • Infants are at higher risk of bacterial meningitis.
  • Meningitis spreads very easily in public places, such as college campuses.
  • Early signs of meningitis include a fever and stiff neck, confusion, headache, nausea, vomiting, and increased sensitivity to light.

Causes and Risk Factors

Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges that surround the brain. Bacterial meningitis can be caused by a range of bacteria, such as

  • Haemophilus influenzae (H. influenzae) type B (Hib)
  • Group B Streptococcus
  • Neisseria meningitides (N. meningitides)
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae (S. pneumonia)
  • Listeria monocytogenes (L. monocytogenes)

Meningitis-causing bacteria typically pass from one person to another through saliva, spit, or droplets in sneezes and coughs. But, some types can spread through food as well.

Risk Factors

Infants are most susceptible to bacterial meningitis. Other risk factors include:

  • an anatomical defect or trauma, such as a skull fracture, and some kinds of surgery,
  • an infection in the head or neck area
  • living in or traveling to certain locations, such as sub-Saharan Africa
  • having a weakened immune system as a result of medical condition or treatment
  • spending time in communities
  • working in laboratories and settings where meningitis pathogens are present


The symptoms might appear out of the blue or over a couple of days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Early symptoms include:
  1. Muscle pain
  2. Sensitivity to light
  3. Nausea and vomiting
  4. Fever
  5. Headache and a stiff neck
  6. Confusion
  7. Cold hands or feet and mottled skin
  8. Rash
Infants are likely to:
  • Breathe quickly
  • Be stiff, floppy or listless
  • Refuse feeds and be irritable
  • Cry excessively, or give a high-pitched moan

Meningitis rash glass test

A meningitis rash happens if blood leaks into the tissue underneath the skin.  It typically begins as a few spots in any bodily part, then spread quickly and resemble fresh bruises. The glass test can help identify a meningeal rash.

  • Press the side of a glass firmly against the rash.
  • If the rash fades and loses color under pressure, it means that it isn’t a meningitis rash.
  • If it doesn’t change color, contact a doctor as soon as possible.
  • The rash/ spots may fade and then come back.


Common treatment includes:

  • Oxygen therapy to help with breathing.
  • Fluids, particularly if the patient is vomiting or unable to drink.
  • Sedatives to calm the patient.
  • Antibiotic are usually given intravenously.
  • Corticosteroids to reduce inflammation in the brain
  • Acetaminophen, or paracetamol: along with cooling pads, fluids, and room ventilation to  reduce fever.
  • Anticonvulsants