Meningitis

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms usually come on quickly, and may include:

    • Fever and chills
    • Mental status changes
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Sensitivity to light (photophobia)
    • Severe headache
    • Stiff neck (meningismus)

    Other symptoms that can occur with this disease:

    • Agitation
    • Bulging fontanelles
    • Decreased consciousness
    • Poor feeding or irritability in children
    • Rapid breathing
    • Unusual posture, with the head and neck arched backwards (opisthotonos)

    Meningitis is an important cause of fever in children and newborns.

    People cannot tell if they have bacterial or viral meningitis by how they feel, so they should seek prompt medical attention.


    Signs and tests

    Physical examination will usually show:

    • Fast heart rate
    • Fever
    • Mental status changes
    • Stiff neck

    For any patient who is suspected of having meningitis, it is important to perform a lumbar puncture ("spinal tap"), in which spinal fluid (known as cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF) is collected for testing.

    Tests that may be done include:

    • Blood culture
    • Chest x-ray
    • CSF examination for cell count, glucose, and protein
    • CT scan of the head
    • Gram stain, other special stains, and culture of CSF