Meningitis is swelling of the meninges, the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. It is usually infectious and can spread from person to person.
Some forms of meningitis spread through tiny, infected droplets when people with the disease cough, sneeze, or come into close contact with others.
About 1 in 10 people carry the meningitis bacteria in their body without experiencing any symptoms. These people may pass on the disease without knowing it. Individuals can prevent the spread of viral and bacterial meningitis by taking certain steps, such as getting vaccinated and regularly washing their hands.
This article looks at the different types of meningitis and how they can spread.
Viral meningitis is the
Many of these fungi live in soil or the environment. People can contract fungal meningitis after breathing in fungal spores.
Some people have these fungi living inside their skin without any problems, such as Candida. However, others will develop fungal meningitis from exposure to Candida. For example, a person with a weakened immune system will be vulnerable to the disease.
Parasitic meningitis is a
Examples of parasites that can cause parasitic meningitis include:
- Angiostrongylus cantonensis
- Baylisascaris procyonis
- Gnathostoma spinigerum
- Streptococcus pneumoniae
- Group B Streptococcus
- Neisseria meningitidis
- Haemophilus influenzae
- Listeria monocytogenes
- Escherichia coli (E. coli)
How the bacteria spreads depends on its type:
- Group B Streptococcus and E. coli typically pass to babies during childbirth.
- Haemophilus influenzae, Neisseria meningitidis, and Streptococcus pneumoniae typically spread through coughing or sneezing.
- E. coli can spread through contaminated food, particularly when people prepare food with unwashed hands.
Bacterial meningitis is a severe condition that can be life threatening. It is important for anyone with signs of meningitis to seek urgent medical help. A doctor will prescribe antibiotics to immediately treat the condition.
Meningitis from these causes is not contagious.
Some cases of meningitis are mild, but others can become severe — particularly bacterial meningitis. People should always contact a doctor if they experience any signs of meningitis,
A doctor will perform diagnostic tests to check what is causing the symptoms. These tests will vary depending on the type of meningitis. For example, a doctor might
- taking fluids from around the spinal cord
- swabbing the nose and throat
- using a blood test
Several types of meningitis are contagious, such as viral or bacterial meningitis. Some types of meningitis do not spread between people, such as fungal meningitis.
People can take some simple steps to reduce the risk of transmission, including regular handwashing, covering coughs and sneezes, and avoiding contact with those who are sick. Individuals can also help to prevent bacterial meningitis by having a vaccine.
Meningitis symptoms generally develop within a week of exposure. In mild cases, an individual may recover at home. However, meningitis can become severe quickly, so an evaluation from a doctor is always necessary.