ID: 118
Category: Infection
CreatedBy: 1
UpdatedBy: 1
createdon: 31 Jan 2023
updatedon: 03 Apr 2023

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Author: Khoa Tran
Published Jan 31, 2023
Updated Apr 03, 2023

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Etymology and Pronunciation

Meningitis (muh-nin-JAHY-tis)
meninx - Greek for "membrane"
-itis - Greek for "inflammation"

History of Meningitis

In the mid-1800s, physicians began to describe cases of inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, which they referred to as "cerebrospinal meningitis". At the time, the condition was poorly understood, and there were few effective treatments available.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, advances in medical research and technology led to a better understanding of the causes and risk factors for meningitis, as well as improved diagnostic and treatment options. In 1887, the bacterium responsible for causing meningitis was identified by the German physician Anton Weichselbaum, who isolated the organism from the spinal fluid of a patient with the condition. This discovery helped pave the way for the development of effective treatments, including antibiotics and vaccines.

In the decades that followed, the prevention and treatment of meningitis continued to be an area of active research and development. In the mid-20th century, the first effective vaccine for meningococcal meningitis was developed, and in the years since, other vaccines have been developed to protect against other types of meningitis.

Modern Understanding of Meningitis

Meningitis is an inflammation of the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord (called the meninges).

The symptoms of meningitis can appear suddenly and can include fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, confusion, and a rash. In severe cases, meningitis can lead to brain damage, hearing loss, and even death.

You should go see a doctor if you have a severe headache that doesn't go away.

Meningitis is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that requires prompt medical attention. Early treatment with antibiotics can be effective in treating bacterial meningitis, but viral meningitis often goes away on its own.

Meningitis in toddlers can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms can be similar to those of other illnesses. Some signs and symptoms to look for in a toddler with meningitis include:
  • Fever: A high temperature is one of the most common symptoms of meningitis.
  • Headache: A headache is a common symptom of meningitis in toddlers, but it is not always present.
  • Stiff neck: Pain and stiffness in the neck, especially when trying to touch the chin to the chest, is a common symptom of meningitis.
  • Nausea and vomiting: These symptoms are common in children with meningitis, especially in the early stages of the illness.
  • Irritability or confusion: Toddlers with meningitis may be irritable, drowsy, or confused.
  • Rash: In some cases of meningitis, a rash may develop on the skin. This is more common in bacterial meningitis.
If you suspect that your toddler has meningitis, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. Early treatment is crucial for a good outcome. To diagnose meningitis, a lumbar puncture to analyze cerebrospinal fluid and blood cultures are commonly performed. Vaccines are available to prevent some of the most common causes of meningitis. These include vaccines for Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), pneumococcal disease, and meningococcal disease.

Causes of Meningitis

Bacterial meningitis is one of the most common causes of meningitis. It can be caused by several different types of bacteria, including Streptococcus pneumoniae, Neisseria meningitidis, and Haemophilus influenzae type b. These bacteria can be spread through close contact with infected individuals, such as coughing or sneezing.

Viral meningitis is another common cause of meningitis. It can be caused by a variety of viruses, including enteroviruses, herpes simplex virus, and West Nile virus. This type of meningitis is typically less severe than bacterial meningitis and can often be treated with supportive care.

Fungal meningitis is less common but can occur in individuals with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV or undergoing chemotherapy. It can be caused by several different types of fungi, including Cryptococcus and Histoplasma.

In addition to infections, meningitis can also be caused by certain illnesses or injuries. For example, autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis can cause inflammation in the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Trauma to the head or spine can also lead to meningitis.

Treatments for Meningitis

Treatment for meningitis varies depending on the cause of the infection. Bacterial meningitis is treated with antibiotics, while viral meningitis may only require supportive care. In some cases, antivirals, corticosteroids, or immunoglobulin may be used to treat meningitis.

It is important to seek medical attention immediately if you suspect that you or someone you know may have meningitis, as prompt treatment can be life-saving.


Sensitivity to light (photophobia)
Stiff neck
Severe headache that doesn't go away

Confirmation Tests

- Blood cultures
- Imaging
- Spinal fluid analysis