Viral vs Bacterial Meningitis.

What is Meningitis? Meningitis is an infection of the tissues covering the brain and spinal cord (meninges).    

Viral meningitis is an infection caused by viruses and bacterial meningitis is an infection caused by bacteria.

What is the difference between viral and bacterial meningitis?

Viral meningitis is usually less serious and goes away without treatment. Many different viruses can cause viral meningitis. Most of the viruses are common during the summer and fall months.
Bacterial meningitis is extremely serious. Brain damage, hearing loss or learning disability may happen after having bacterial meningitis. It is important to know what bacteria are causing bacterial meningitis so that the correct medicine can be used to prevent others from getting sick. The earlier the medicine is given the more successful it is. Streptococcus pneumonia and Neisseria meningitidis are two kinds of bacteria that cause bacterial meningitis. Haemophilus influenzae type b bacteria mostly attacks the very young but with the vaccination program in infants, meningitis in children happens less frequently.

What are the symptoms of meningitis?

Often the symptoms of viral and bacterial meningitis are the same. Symptoms can include:
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Severe headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Irritability
  • Discomfort looking into a bright light
  • Confusion
  • Sleepiness
  • Rash

It is difficult to tell the difference between viral and bacterial meningitis, so if you think you or your child has meningitis, see your doctor right away.

An alcohol-based sanitiser can be added to your hand hygiene routine:

  • Apply the hand sanitiser rub to your hands. Use an amount about the size of a 5p.
  • Rub your hands together until the hand sanitiser rub is gone. Hands will feel dry in about 15 seconds.

How meningitis is spread, sharing personal items.

Meningitis is usually caused by a bacterial or viral infection. Bacterial meningitis is rarer but more serious than viral meningitis.

  • sneezing 
  • coughing
  • kissing 
  • sharing utensils, cutlery and toothbrushes, do not share anything that has been in someone else’s mouth

Infections that cause meningitis can be spread through:
Meningitis is usually caught from people who carry these viruses or bacteria in their nose or throat but aren't ill themselves.
It can also be caught from someone with meningitis, but this is less common.


NHS website Meningitis. Retrieved on April 12 2016,
Center of Disease Control Meningitis. Meningitis. Retrieved on January 25, 2017,
Center of Disease Control Meningitis. Bacterial Meningitis. Retrieved on January 25, 2017,
Center of Disease Control Meningitis. Viral Meningitis. Retrieved on January 25, 2017,