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What is meningitis?

Meningitis is the inflammation of the ‘meninges’. The meninges are a layer that surrounds the brain and spinal cord that protect them from infection and damage.

In most cases, meningitis is caused by viruses and bacteria.

Since vaccines were introduced against some viruses and bacterias that cause these infections, these diseases are becoming less common.

Viral meningitis

This type of meningitis does not need antibiotic treatment but your child may need to stay in the hospital for a few days to be checked on.

Bacterial meningitis

This type of meningitis requires treatment with antibiotics, which are usually given through a vein (intravenously). The doctor will discuss the type of bacteria and the length of treatment needed for your child.

How is bacterial meningitis spread?

The germs that cause this type of meningitis live naturally in the back of the nose and throat without any problems.

Sometimes, the bacteria can go into the bloodstream and the outside of the meninges.

Do you treat people who have been in contact with meningitis?

Only people who have come into close contact with meningococcal meningitis needed antibiotics (prophylaxis).

Medical staff will decide which close contacts need antibiotics after talking with you.

If you are pregnant or on the contraceptive pill, please let the doctor know.

The local Health Protection Agency staff will contact your child’s nursery or playgroup to arrange treatment if needed.

Contact information

If you have any further questions or concerns, please contact:

Meningitis Now

Head Office, Fern House
Bath Road

UK 24 hour helpline:
Freephone 0808 8010 388

Email: info@meningitisnow.org

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: WD34-3

Resource Type: Article

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