Types of Meningitis
What's the Difference Between Bacterial and Viral Meningitis?
This may be why they are sometimes confused for one another. Here’s the information you need to help tell them apart.
- Serious complications, such as amputations, scarring, and brain damage in about 1 in 5 people
- Death in 10%-15% of cases even when appropriate antibiotic therapy is used
Fortunately, most of the bacteria that cause meningitis are not as contagious as the viruses that cause the common cold or the flu.2 Meningitis-causing bacteria aren't usually spread through casual contact with someone who is infected.2 Rather, the bacteria that cause meningococcal meningitis are spread through the exchange of respiratory secretions (eg, kissing, sharing drinks, or sharing eating utensils) with someone who is infected.2
Most importantly, unlike the most common forms of viral meningitis, the most common forms of bacterial meningitis are vaccine-preventable.7
Though it can be fatal, viral meningitis is often less severe than bacterial meningitis.8 Most people with viral meningitis usually recover in 7 to 10 days without specific treatment.8 The most common forms of viral meningitis are not preventable with a vaccine.3,9
The viruses that commonly cause meningitis can spread the same way that bacterial meningitis does (eg, through kissing, sharing drinks, or sharing eating utensils).8 Also, viral meningitis, which is more prevalent during the summer and fall months, has symptoms that are similar to those of bacterial meningitis, including8-10:
- Sudden fever
- Stiff neck
- Light sensitivity
Viral meningitis can affect anyone though it occurs mostly in children younger than 5 years of age.8,10 If you believe that you or a loved one has viral meningitis, see a doctor immediately.
Next: Meningitis Vaccination