Viral (caused by a virus)
Viral meningitis is more common than bacterial meningitis. Meningitis from most viruses is rarely life-threatening. But some can cause long-standing nervous system complications or death. Viral meningitis can be caused by different viruses. It is spread between people by coughing or sneezing, or through poor hygiene. Rarely, insects such as mosquitoes and ticks may spread these viruses.
In a few cases, viral meningitis can be helped by special antiviral medicines that target specific viruses. Most people have a full recovery. But headaches, fatigue, and depression may continue.
Bacterial (caused by a bacterium)
Bacterial meningitis, although rare, may be fatal.
Bacteria may be spread through respiratory and throat fluids. This can be through coughing and kissing.
Many species of bacteria can cause meningitis. Below are 4 types:
Neisseria meningitidis (meningococcus). This is a common cause of bacterial meningitis in children 2 to 18 years of age. It is spread by respiratory droplets and close contact. Meningococcal meningitis occurs most often in the first year of life. But it may also occur in people who live in close quarters, such as a college dorm.
Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus). This is the most common and most serious form of bacterial meningitis. People with weak immune systems are most at risk.
Haemophilus influenzae type b. The Hib vaccine has greatly decreased the number of cases in the U.S. Children who don't have access to the vaccine and those in daycare centers are at higher risk of getting this illness.
Listeria monocytogenes. This has become a more frequent cause of meningitis in newborns, pregnant women, people older than age 60, and in people of all ages who have a weak immune system.
Fungal meningitis (caused by a fungus)
Fungal meningitis is very uncommon. It can happen in people with a weak immune system. This might be from AIDS or cancer.
Fungal infections can rarely be caused by medical procedures. This can happen if there is contamination.
Aseptic meningitis (meningitis without an infection)