Meningitis is a serious infection that causes the inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. These membranes are often referred to as meninges. Early meningitis symptoms mimic the flu while later symptoms in adults include sudden high fever, stiff neck, headache, disorientation, nausea or vomiting, loss of appetite, seizures, or skin rash.
Many types of microorganisms can cause a meningitis infection. Infections are typically caused by viruses, although infections caused by bacteria and fungus can also occur. Viral meningitis is usually mild and often clears up on its own. Enteroviruses are most commonly associated with viral meningitis.
Bacterial meningitis results from the entrance of bacteria into the bloodstream where bacteria then have the ability to travel to the brain and spinal cord. Common bacterial species that cause meningitis infections include Streptococcus pneumoniae, Neisseria meningitides, Haemophilus influenza, and Listeria monocytogenes.
Fungal meningitis is rare and is most often the cause of chronic meningitis. Chronic meningitis is more common in patients suffering from autoimmune disease such as AIDS. Although fungal meningitis is not contagious, it can be fatal if not treated with antifungal compounds.
Sources: WebMD, Mayo Clinic