Should You Get Your Meningitis Symptoms Checked?

Stiff neck
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Symptoms of meningitis can mistaken for the flu, a cold or similar viral illness, according to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. Because of this, meningitis, which is an inflammation of the tissue that covers and protects the organs that make up the central nervous system, is often misdiagnosed as something less potentially deadly than it is.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that even when meningitis is diagnosed early and the right type and amount of treatment is begun, up to 10% of patients die – generally between 24 and 48 hours after symptoms first come on.

  And when it doesn’t kill, it often maims: Ten to 20% of survivors, according to WHO, become brain damaged and/or they sustain hearing loss or a learning disability.

Should you also notice a rash, things get even more serious.  (And as with any and all meningitis-like symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.)

WHO says, that meningococcal septicemia, while less common than other symptoms, is much more severe.  This rash is called a hemorrhagic rash.  In cases of meningococcal septicemia, it is usually accompanied by rapid circulatory collapse.  Meningococcal septicemia can be fatal.

Getting Your Meningitis-Like Symptoms Checked

Hasbun, et. al. in their article entitled, “Meningitis,” published on the Medscape website says in cases of bacterial meningitis, there’s a “classic triad” of symptoms that consists of:  Fever, headache and a stiff neck.

But these are not the only meningitis symptoms you may encounter.

  According to Hasbun, et. al., others may include sensitivity to light, nausea, vomiting, confusion and irritability, delirium, sleepiness and even coma.  When meningitis is caused by a virus, they say, patients may have previously had systemic symptoms like fatigue, anorexia or myalgia (muscle pain.)

Be Thorough and Honest When Discussing Meningitis Symptoms and Risks with Your Doctor

When you discuss your symptoms with your doctor she may want to know about the way you live and with whom you come into close or long term contact. This is because meningitis may be  contagious under conditions where people exchange respiratory secretions.  So, for example,  if your partner or child has meningitis, your risk may be higher simply because you stand a greater chance of intimate contact with their bodily fluids.

Your doctor may also ask you about other illnesses you’ve had, where you’ve been and when your symptoms first appeared.    The World Health Organization says that sub-Saharan Africa, which extends from Senegal to Ethiopia and includes 26 countries has the highest rates of bacterial meningitis. The enterovirus, responsible for the most common types of viral meningitis is more active in summer and fall months.

If you are unsure of the risks for or symptoms of meningitis, take a few moments to go through the Meningitis Awareness Quiz to clarify your knowledge of the subject. It may save your life!


Bacterial Meningitis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. 

National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. Meningitis Myths and Facts. National Foundation for Infectious Diseases website. Revised July 2015. 

Hasbun, R., et. al. Meningitis. Medscape website. Last updated: January 2015. 

Meningitis. MedlinePlus. U.S. National Library of Medicine. NIH. 

National Meningitis Association. How is it spread? National Meningitis Association website.