Meningitis is an infection of the tissues and fluid that surround the brain and spinal cord. When bacteria cause the infection, it is called bacterial meningitis.
Bacteria can spread to the brain and spinal cord from a nearby infection, through the bloodstream, or rarely can be caught from a person who has bacterial infection.
Three childhood immunizations have been shown to decrease the risk of a child getting meningitis. These vaccines include:
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of meningitis can come on very fast (over a few hours) or more slowly (over a few days). Most infants and children will have a fever or cold followed by one or more of the following:
Bacterial meningitis is a serious illness. Your child may recover without any problems if the infection was found early and treated with antibiotics. Even with treatment, some types of meningitis can cause brain damage ranging from deafness to paralysis to death.
Bacterial meningitis can be life-threatening. Your child will stay in the hospital for treatment. Treatment must begin right away. Antibiotics will be given for 1 to 3 weeks, depending on the type of infection. Your child will have blood tests to check fluid balance. Your child may need to keep taking antibiotics after going home from the hospital.
The bacteria causing the meningitis can be passed from person to person. A child can be contagious for 2 days to 2 weeks, depending on the type of bacteria. Your healthcare provider will let you know when your child is no longer contagious and can return to normal activities. Until then:
Call IMMEDIATELY if:
Call within 24 hours if: