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Meningitis - What Happens

The course of meningitis often depends on your age, general health, and the organism causing the infection. The illness can range from mild to severe.

Viral meningitis is more common in the late summer and early fall. It usually doesn't cause serious illness. A visit to the doctor followed by home treatment may be all you need.

Recommended Related to Children's Vaccines

Pneumococcal Vaccine

For more than 30 years, there has been a vaccine that can safely prevent pneumococcal disease, a serious infection caused by a bacterium known as Streptococcus pneumoniae. But the PPSV vaccine (pneumococcal polysaccharide) cannot be used for the part of the population that is most vulnerable to the disease -- children under age 2. Without the protection of a vaccine, infants and very young children are at higher risk for several dangerous infections, including pneumonia and bacterial meningitis. However,...

Read the Pneumococcal Vaccine article > >

You may get better within 2 weeks. But some people may feel lightheaded and tired for several months after the illness.

Bacterial meningitis occurs most often from late winter to early spring. It usually causes serious illness and can be life-threatening. The symptoms usually develop suddenly and last for 2 to 3 weeks. A person with bacterial meningitis is treated with antibiotics in a hospital.


Complications, short-term and long-term, are more common with bacterial than with viral meningitis. People with bacterial meningitis can die if not treated right away. People who are more likely to have these problems include:

The risk of dying from bacterial meningitis is also higher for adults who:1

  • Have seizures during the first 24 hours of illness.
  • Are in shock or in a coma when admitted to the hospital.
  • Can't breathe without help from a machine.

Most survivors recover completely.4

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: November 14, 2014
    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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