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JAMA Patient Page
March 12, 2019

Meningococcal Meningitis

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
JAMA. 2019;321(10):1014. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.0772

Meningitis is a disease in which the meninges (tissues surrounding the brain and spinal cord) become inflamed.

Meningitis is most commonly caused by infection with a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection. Symptoms of meningitis include high fever, stiff neck, headache, sensitivity to light, drowsiness, rash, and confusion. Meningitis can progress rapidly, so patients with symptoms of meningitis should seek medical attention immediately. If meningitis is suspected, a lumbar puncture (“spinal tap”) is performed to sample the fluid around the spinal cord to look for signs of infection.

One of the bacteria that can cause meningitis is called Neisseria meningitidis, or meningococcus. Meningococcal meningitis is very serious. Even with treatment, 10 to 15 of every 100 people who have meningococcal meningitis die as a result. It can also cause permanent disabilities, including loss of limbs, deafness, or brain damage.