Meningitis is the inflammation of the pia mater and the thin arachnoid membranes protecting the brain and the spinal cord collectively known as the meninges. This condition may be caused by various organisms, including some other causes. There are several types of meningitis, depending on the type of organism that causes it. The most common type is the viral meningitis (which can be mild and self-limiting), while the most rare type is bacterial in origin (which can be debilitating or fatal).

In the United States, the annual incidence of meningitis (acute bacterial) is estimated at 3 cases per 100,000 people. The causative agent for the infections can vary depending on the age and the status of the immune system of the affected individual. The mortality rate for this ailment has been set at 5% especially for children, but those who are able to survive this condition usually have lasting neurologic effects.



Meningitis can have different causative agents: bacteria, virus, fungi, parasites, and other non-infectious causes.

Bacterial meningitis is caused by bacteria such as Streptococcus pneumonia or Neisseria meningitidis. It is spread through droplet secretions, or through direct contact with the respiratory fluids of an infected person.

Viral meningitis is caused by enterovirus, arbovirus or herpes simplex viruses. This type of meningitis is usually spread through the fecal-oral route (contact with contaminated fecal matter without proper hand washing afterwards) and through contact with infected body fluids from the eyes and respiratory tract.

Fungal meningitis is caused by the spores of fungi such as Cryptococcus or Histoplasma. People who have compromised immune systems such as those with HIV or cancer have a greater risk for fungal meningitis.

Non-infectious meningitis is caused either by other conditions (such as cancer or lupus), head injuries or brain surgeries with complication, and other drugs.


Signs and Symptoms

Anyone who is exposed to the causative agents of meningitis can contract the disease, but children who are aged below 5 years old at the highest risk for infection. A person (whether child or adult) with meningitis may manifest the following symptoms regardless of the organism causing the condition:

  • Episodes of high fever/headache, with cold extremities;
  • Loss of appetite with bouts of vomiting;
  • Agitation, irritability, and restlessness;
  • Difficult to wake up, lethargy and/or somnolence;
  • Slow, rapid breathing;
  • Pale skin with a prominent rash that doesn’t fade with the glass test;
  • Distended fontanels;
  • Stiff neck (nuchal rigidity) and muscle pain;
  • Dislike/sensitivity for bright lights; and
  • Convulsions and/or seizures.

Signs of meningeal irritation include nuchal rigidity and positive Brudzinski’s and Kernig’s signs. To elicit Brudzinski’s sign, place the patient supine and flex the head upward. Resulting flexion of hips, knees, and ankles with neck flexion indicates meningeal irritation. To test for Kernig’s sign, once again place the patient supine. Keep the bottom leg straight; flex the other hip and knee to form a 90-degree angle. Slowly extend the upper leg. This places a stretch on the meninges, resulting in pain and spasm of the hamstring muscle. Resistance to further extension can be felt.



Treatment for meningitis depends on the causative agent. Oftentimes, antibiotic therapy is given. This is especially true for bacterial meningitis, where antibacterial medications are delivered via intravenous fluids. For more serious cases, hospitalization is inevitable, in order to monitor the condition closely.

Viral meningitis, on the other hand, will do well without intense medical treatment. This is because viral infections are self-limiting and usually just lasts for a couple of weeks. Rest is often recommended, coupled with medications to address the symptoms like headaches and body pains.

Other types of meningitis may be treated accordingly, by means of addressing the causative agents of the condition.


Disability Tax Credits for Meningitis

If your child has been diagnosed with or treated for any type of meningitis, he may gain from the benefits specified for them by the disability saving plan from the Canadian Revenue Agency. With a disability certificate from your physician, you can file for this disability claim. To make this process easier on your end, call on the help of a HandyTax representative now.