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Meningitis - Cause

How meningitis is spread

Germs that cause meningitis can be spread:

  • During birth. A mother can pass germs that cause meningitis to her baby even if the mother doesn't have symptoms. Delivering a baby by cesarean section rather than through the birth canal doesn't always protect the baby from getting the infection. Both bacteria and viruses can be transmitted this way.
  • Through stool. Stool could have enteroviruses or certain types of bacteria in it. Washing hands on a regular basis can help prevent you and your children from getting infected this way. More children than adults get meningitis this way.
  • Through coughing and sneezing. Infected people can pass certain bacteria that are normally found in saliva or mucus in their noses and throats.
  • Through kissing, sexual contact, or contact with infected blood. Some viruses also can cause meningitis and can be passed from an infected person to another person through blood, sexual contact, or kissing.
  • From eating certain foods. Eating food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes bacteria can cause meningitis. Those at greater risk for this include pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.
  • From rodents and insects (rare). For example, leptospirosis is a disease caused by bacteria that is spread through water or plants contaminated by the urine of infected mice, hamsters, and rats. And the St. Louis encephalitis and West Nile viruses are spread through mosquito bites.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 15, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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