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Meningitis is an acute inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, known collectively as the meninges. The most common symptoms are fever, headache and neck stiffness. Other symptoms include confusion or altered consciousness, vomiting, and an inability to tolerate light or loud noises. Young children often exhibit only nonspecific symptoms, such as irritability, drowsiness, or poor feeding. If a rash is present, it may indicate a particular cause of meningitis; for instance, meningitis caused by meningococcal bacteria may be accompanied by a characteristic rash.

The inflammation may be caused by infection with viruses, bacteria, or other microorganisms, and less commonly by certain drugs. Meningitis can be life-threatening because of the inflammation's proximity to the brain and spinal cord; therefore, the condition is classified as a medical emergency. A lumbar puncture diagnoses or excludes meningitis. A needle is inserted into the spinal canal to collect a sample of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), that envelops the brain and spinal cord. The CSF is examined in a medical laboratory.

Some forms of meningitis are preventable by immunization with the meningococcal, mumps, pneumococcal, and Hib vaccines. Giving antibiotics to people with significant exposure to certain types of meningitis may also be useful. The first treatment in acute meningitis consists of promptly giving antibiotics and sometimes antiviral drugs. Corticosteroids can also be used to prevent complications from excessive inflammation. Meningitis can lead to serious long-term consequences such as deafness, epilepsy, hydrocephalus, or cognitive deficits, especially if not treated quickly.

In 2013 meningitis occurred in about 16 million people worldwide. This resulted in 303,000 deaths – down from 464,000 deaths in 1990. With appropriate treatment the risk of death in bacterial meningitis is less than 15%. Outbreaks of bacterial meningitis occur between December and June each year in an area of sub-Saharan Africa known as the meningitis belt. Smaller outbreaks may also occur in other areas of the world. The word meningitis is from Greek μῆνιγξ méninx, "membrane" and the medical suffix -itis, "inflammation".

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English


▪ The symptoms are similar so hospital tests may be needed to tell the difference between bacterial and viral meningitis.
▪ If bacterial meningitis is diagnosed early and treated promptly, most people make a complete recovery.
▪ Be prepared to insist: if it is bacterial meningitis early treatment with antibiotics is vital.
▪ The only other important one is Neisseria meningitidis, the usual cause of bacterial meningitis.
▪ Hib meningitis causes around a third of all cases of bacterial meningitis and is the commonest form in children under four.
▪ As a result of a concussion he contracted spinal meningitis and almost died.
▪ Bacterial meningitis 1, 402 0. 6&.
▪ Bacterial meningitis must always be considered in a febrile person with severe headache.
▪ He's likely to get meningitis from the wound.
▪ He says a child with meningitis could need urgent treatment and may not get it fast enough because its too far.
▪ Rarely, a subarachnoid bleed can present with high fever, stiff neck, and headache masquerading as meningitis.
▪ Researchers at Gloucesters public health laboratories have been carrying out a long term study into more than three hundred cases of meningitis.


n. infectious disease characterized by inflammation of the meninges (the tissues that surround the brain or spinal cord) usually caused by a bacterial infection; symptoms include headache and stiff neck and fever and nausea

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary


"inflammation of the meninges," 1825, coined from Modern Latin meninga, from Greek meninx (genitive meningos) "membrane," in medical Latin especially that of the brain (see member) + -itis "disease." Related: Meningitic.

The Collaborative International Dictionary


Meningitis \Men`in*gi"tis\, n. [NL. See Meninges, and -itis.] (Med.) Inflammation of the membranes of the brain or spinal cord.

Cerebro-spinal meningitis. See under Cerebro-spinal.



n. (context pathology English) Inflammation of the meninges, characterized by headache, neck stiffness and photophobia and also fever, chills, vomiting and myalgia.

Usage examples of "meningitis".

About half of those with the inhalational form of the disease develop anthrax meningitis if untreated.

See also respirators medical response to bioterrorism, recommendations for, 169 meningitis, anthrax, 54 middle-school children, communicating with, 46-47 mildew, powdery, 152 Morris, Thomas, Jr.

And we should never have got near the case till the real Madame Marchal had died quietly of meningitis and Marchal was arrested for murder.

It also began with loud smelly farts, with bad breaths, with ragged nerves, with epilepsy, with meningitis, with low wages, with back pay that was overdue, with worn-out shoes, with corns and bunions, with flat feet and broken arches, with pocket books missing and fountain pens lost or stolen, with telegrams floating in the sewer, with threats from the vice-president and advice from the managers, with wrangles and disputes, with cloudbursts and broken telegraph wires, with new methods of efficiency and old ones that had been discarded, with hope for better times and a prayer for the bonus which never came.

Only thing we usually have to worry about, in terms of contagion, is bacterial meningitis.

William set a plate at each place while he quizzed Mattie at length about her mother's death from acute bacterial meningitis.

The defence was that the prescription had been properly filled, but that the child was the victim of various diseases, from acute gastritis to cerebro-spinal meningitis.

If a really intricate case of, say, cerebro-spinal meningitis comes my way and I’.

From the fluid pressure and from its chemical makeup it is possible to draw useful conclusions as to the existence or nonexistence of a brain tumor or abscess, of meningitis or other infection, and so on.

They tried typhoid, bubonic plague, pneumonic plague, meningitis, and tularemia.

Meningitis, encephalitis - that's a sleeping sickness caused by inflammation of the brain - even venereal diseases.