Meningitis is most commonly caused by viral or bacterial infection. Signs and symptoms of viral and bacterial meningitis are almost similar and can therefore, be difficult to differentiate. Bacterial meningitis is considered as a medical emergency because it can progress rapidly and lead to septicaemia (blood poisoning) or even death. Meningitis can affect a person of any age group, but the incidence is more common in young children (<4 years) and children in the late teenage years. In the initial stages of illness, the signs and symptoms of meningitis may be mistaken for flu (influenza), however, in meningitis, the signs and symptoms tend to progress more rapidly over several hours or over one or two days and are therefore, more severe.
Signs and symptoms of meningitis
Bacterial meningitis is more serious than viral meningitis. The symptoms usually begin suddenly and can progress rapidly causing more complications and leading to septicaemia (blood poisoning).
Early warning signs: Some early warning signs that may be present before overt symptoms of meningitis appear include:
If you have high temperature (fever) along with one or more of the above symptoms, do not ignore them, but consult your doctor immediately.
Early symptoms: Early symptoms of meningitis are non-specific and similar symptoms are observed in many other conditions.
Later symptoms: As the infection progresses, the symptoms become more severe and there may be symptoms of neurological involvement.
Babies and young children
Signs and symptoms of bacterial meningitis in infants and young children can be different from adults and older children. Possible signs and symptoms that may occur include: