About Meningitis and
Meningitis and encephalitis are inflammatory diseases of the
membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord and are
caused by bacterial or viral infections.
Viral meningitis is sometimes called aseptic meningitis to
indicate it is not the result of bacterial infection and cannot
be treated with antibiotics.
Symptoms of encephalitis include sudden fever, headache,
vomiting, heightened sensitivity to light, stiff neck and back,
confusion and impaired judgment, drowsiness, weak muscles, a
clumsy and unsteady gait, and irritability.
Symptoms that might require emergency treatment include loss
of consciousness, seizures, muscle weakness, or sudden severe
Symptoms of meningitis, which may appear suddenly, often
include high fever, severe and persistent headache, stiff neck,
nausea, and vomiting. Changes in behavior such as confusion,
sleepiness, and difficulty waking up may also occur.
In infants, symptoms of meningitis may include irritability
or fatigue, lack of appetite, and fever. Viral meningitis
usually resolves in 10 days or less, but other types of
meningitis can be deadly if not treated promptly. Anyone
experiencing symptoms of meningitis or encephalitis should see
a doctor immediately.
Antiviral medications may be prescribed for herpes
encephalitis or other severe viral infections. Antibiotics may
be prescribed for bacterial infections. Anticonvulsants are
used to prevent or treat seizures.
Corticosteroids are used to reduce brain swelling and
inflammation. Sedatives may be needed for irritability or
restlessness. Over-the-counter medications may be used for
fever and headache. Individuals with encephalitis or bacterial
meningitis are usually hospitalized for treatment.
The prognosis for encephalitis varies. Some cases are mild,
short and relatively benign and patients have full recovery.
Other cases are severe, and permanent impairment or death is
possible. The acute phase of encephalitis may last for 1 to 2
weeks, with gradual or sudden resolution of fever and
Neurological symptoms may require many months before full
recovery. With early diagnosis and prompt treatment, most
patients recover from meningitis. However, in some cases, the
disease progresses so rapidly that death occurs during the
first 48 hours, despite early treatment.
Public Health Authorities support and conduct research on
infections and diseases of the brain and nervous system
including encephalitis and meningitis. Much of this research is
aimed at learning more about the cause(s), prevention, and
treatment of these disorders.
Reference for Meningitis and Encephalitis
National Institutes of Health
The National Cancer
The National Eye Institute
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood
National Institute on Aging
National Institute of Allergy and
National Institute of Arthritis and
Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
National Institute of Diabetes and
Digestive and Kidney Diseases
National Institute on Drug
National Institute of Mental
National Institute of Neurological
Disorders and Stroke