- Is Meningitis Contagious? Center
- Bacterial Infections 101 Pictures Slideshow
- Take the Tummy Trouble Quiz
- Hepatitis C Slideshow Pictures
- Find a local Doctor in your town
What is meningitis?
Meningitis is inflammation of the membranes (meninges) that surround the brain and the spinal cord. The usual signs and symptoms of meningitis are headache, fever, and a stiff neck. There are many types of meningitis. Often meningitis is named according to the cause. For example, there are viral, bacterial, noninfectious (aseptic), and many other types of meningitis.
Is meningitis contagious?
The contagiousness is related to the specific agent that causes the disease. The following is a summary of five types of meningitis and how they may or may not be contagious.
- Viral meningitis: Meningitis caused by many viruses is usually contagious. However, certain viruses that are transmitted by mosquitoes are usually not spread person to person, so they are not contagious.
- Bacterial meningitis: Bacterial meningitis is usually contagious; some bacteria more highly contagious (such as Neisseria meningitidis in young adults and Streptococcus pneumoniae in all ages) than others.
- Fungal meningitis: Fungal meningitis (for example, Cryptococcus meningitis) is not considered to be contagious.
- Parasitic meningitis: Parasitic meningitis, which is rare (for example, Naegleria fowleri), is not considered to be contagious from person to person.
- Noninfectious meningitis: Noninfectious meningitis is not a result of infection but is from an underlying condition or disease and not considered contagious. Causes of noninfectious meningitis include cancers in and around the brain or spinal cord, drugs, head injury, and autoimmune disease (such as lupus or Behçet's disease).
How contagious is meningitis?
In short, most bacterial meningitis infections are mildly to moderately contagious person to person, while some viral meningitis are contagious but other types are not. Fungal, parasitic, and noninfectious causes of meningitis are not contagious from one person directly to another.
How long is meningitis contagious?
This depends upon which infectious agents are causing the meningitis. In general, when the patient is secreting or producing viruses or bacteria, they are considered contagious. When the patient stops secreting or producing infectious agents is when meningitis is no longer contagious. Viral caused meningitis may be contagious from three days after infection starts to about 10 days after the symptoms develop. Bacterial meningitis is usually less contagious than viral; depending on the bacterial genus causing the infection, it may be contagious during the incubation period and for about an additional seven to 14 days. And they can be contagious for much longer (many days to months) if the person becomes a carrier. The contagious period may be shortened with antibiotic treatments.
What is the incubation period for meningitis?
The incubation period for bacterial meningitis, the most serious types of meningitis, is about three to five days after initial contact with the microbe. However, in some individuals, bacterial meningitis symptoms can occur as rapidly as 24 hours. For viral meningitis, the incubation period can range widely from only a few days to a few weeks. Patients who get meningitis usually have symptoms of headache, fever, and a stiff neck. They may also develop nausea and vomiting, photophobia, and alteration of their mental state. Children with meningitis may appear to be lethargic, drowsy, have a high-pitched cry, may develop a rash, and dislike being held.
Besides the history and physical exam, the physician is likely to do a spinal tap to analyze spinal fluid to detect the agent involved. Bacteria, viruses, or other agents may be identified by subsequent tests of the spinal fluid, including microscopic identification, culture, and immunological tests. In addition, blood and urine samples are also analyzed. Identification of the precise microbe allows the physician to diagnose the type of meningitis and proceed with accurate treatments.
How does meningitis spread?
Meningitis is transmitted to people by many methods. Both bacterial and viral meningitis are spread person to person similarly. Person-to-person spread can happen with direct and indirect contact between individuals (coughing up droplets, contact with the feces, sneezing, saliva, kissing, or eating contaminated food). Indirect spread by using the same utensils, cups, and other items used by an infected individual can also spread the disease to others. Some fungal infections are transmitted by airborne dust particles. In addition, other types of meningitis can be transferred to humans by vectors such as mosquitoes (for example, West Nile virus) or ticks (Lyme disease).
How long does meningitis last?
Viral meningitis lasts about seven to 10 days with symptoms receding gradually. Bacterial meningitis is usually cured by antibiotics. The time to cure varies with each individual and corresponds with the decrease of symptoms. If bacterial meningitis is not treated rapidly with antibiotics, there can be long-term injury to the brain and even death.
When should someone seek medical care for meningitis?
Individuals should contact a medical caregiver immediately about meningitis if they suspect that they have been exposed to bacterial meningitis. Meningitis, especially bacterial meningitis, is considered a medical emergency; if an individual develops early symptoms of meningitis (high fever, headache, and/or neck stiffness) or becomes ill after contacting an individual known to have contagious meningitis, he or she should seek medical care emergently. Bacterial meningitis has about a 10% death rate unless it is treated early in the infection.
Infants with meningitis may develop a firm or bulging soft spot on the head. Other problems that can develop at any age are seizures, altered consciousness, and difficulty breathing. Individuals with these symptoms should immediately go to an emergency department. If an infant or child exhibits such serious meningitis symptoms, if possible, seek a hospital that offers pediatric emergency medicine.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
United States. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. "Non-Infectious Meningitis." Apr. 15, 2016. <http://www.cdc.gov/meningitis/non-infectious.html>.
Top Is Meningitis Contagious Related Articles
Aches, Pain, FeverAlthough a fever technically is any body temperature above the normal of 98.6 F (37 C), in practice, a person is usually not considered to have a significant fever until the temperature is above 100.4 F (38 C). Fever is part of the body's own disease-fighting arsenal; rising body temperatures apparently are capable of killing off many disease-producing organisms.
Kids' Illnesses SlideshowIs your child at risk for these childhood diseases? Know what to look for and when to call the doctor for conditions such as measles, mumps, ringworm, pink eye, strep throat, cough, ear aches, and more.
Facial Nerve ProblemsBell's palsy is one type of facial nerve paralysis. The 7th cranial nerve controls the muscles of the face, and although scientists do not know the exact cause of Bell's palsy, they think it may be due to nerve damage from an infection, for example, the flu, common cold viruses, and more serious infections like meningitis. The symptoms of Bell's palsy vary from person to person, but can include mild weakness to total paralysis, dry eye, dry mouth, eyelid drooping, drooling, mouth drooping, dry mouth, changes in taste, and excessive tearing in one eye.
People with Bell's palsy usually don't need medical treatment, however, drugs like steroids, for example, prednisone seem to be effective in reducing swelling and inflammation are used when medical is necessary. Most people with Bell's palsy begin to recover within two weeks after the initial onset of symptoms. Full recovery may take three to six months.
Fungal MeningitisFungal meningitis is a rare disease that is not contagious. Symptoms include fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, and vomiting. Treatment involves administering high doses of antifungal medications.
Headaches can be divided into two categories: primary headaches and secondary headaches. Migraine headaches, tension headaches, and cluster headaches are considered primary headaches. Secondary headaches are caused by disease. Headache symptoms vary with the headache type. Over-the-counter pain relievers provide short-term relief for most headaches.
Mastoiditis in children and adults is inflammation and/or infection of the mastoid bone, which is located behind the ear. The most common cause of mastoiditis is an inner ear infection or otitis media. Acute mastoiditis lasts for a short period, while chronic mastoiditis can last for months to years.
Symptoms of acute mastoiditis in children and adults include, pain and swelling behind the ear, pus draining from the ear, and a low-grade fever. Complications of mastoiditis include meningitis, abscess, dizziness, and conductive hearing loss.
Mastoiditis requires antibiotic treatment so it cannot be treated at home with natural products or home remedies ; however, home remedies may help reduce symptoms of pain, inflammation, and fever. Some individuals will need surgery to cure their infection.
MeningitisMeningitis is inflammation of the membranes that cover the spinal cord and brain. Symptoms include fever, headache, and a stiff neck. Treatment of meningitis depends upon the cause of the infection and may include antibiotics or antiviral medications.
Meningitis QuizWhat is meningitis and what causes it? Take our Meningitis Quiz to learn the causes, symptoms, treatments, and complications of this potentially life-threatening disease.
Nausea and Vomiting
Nausea is an uneasiness of the stomach that often precedes vomiting. Nausea and vomiting are not diseases, but they are symptoms of many conditions. There are numerous cases of nausea and vomiting. Some causes may not require medical treatment, for example, motion sickness, and other causes may require medical treatment by a doctor, for example, heart attack, lung infections, bronchitis, and pneumonia.
Some causes of nausea and vomiting may be life threatening, for example, heart attack, abdominal obstruction, and cancers.
Treatment of nausea and vomiting depends upon the cause.
penicillins-injectionPenicillin antibiotics are prescribed to treat a variety of types of infections. For example, middle ear and sinus infections; bladder, stomach, intestines, and kidney; pneumonia; sepsis; meningitis; endocarditis; and many other serious infections. Examples of penicillin antibiotics, side effects, drug interactions, and pregnancy and breastfeeding safety information should be reviewed prior to taking any medication.
RashThe word "rash" means an outbreak of red bumps on the body. The way people use this term, "a rash" can refer to many different skin conditions. The most common of these are scaly patches of skin and red, itchy bumps or patches all over the place.
Rat Lungworm (Angiostrongylus cantonensis)Rat lungworm (Angiostrongylus cantonensis) is a parasite that infects rats. The parasite can infect people if ingested by eating undercooked or raw infected snails or slugs. Though rat lungworm often causes no signs and symptoms, the parasite can cause eosinophlic meningitis in some. Stiff neck, headach, vomiting, nausea, and fever are symptoms of eosinophilic meningitis. Treatment is usually unnecessary. For more severe infections, treatment focuses on alleviating symptoms.