Every SECOND counts. If you suspect meningitis, GET MEDICAL HELP IMMEDIATELY. Call or see your doctor / Call an ambulance / Get to a hospital.

Types of Meningitis

Bacterial meningitis

The most common types of bacterial meningitis seen today are;

  1. Meningococcal disease (meningococcal meningitis and/or meningococcal septicaemia)
  2. Pneumococcal meningitis.

There are various strains of meningococcal meningitis, the most common in New Zealand being B and C, with babies, young children, teenagers and young adults at the greatest risk.  We do not currently have a vaccine available in New Zealand for immunisation against Meningococcal B so it is vital to know the signs and symptoms so that you can seek immediate medical attention if needed.

Antibiotics are still the most effective form of treatment but death does occur in 5% of cases. In addition, about 20% are left with permanent disabilities such as cerebral palsy, limb amputations, learning difficulties and deafness.

In the past, Haemophilus Influenza type b (Hib) meningitis used to be the most common cause of bacterial meningitis but it has become much less common since the introduction of Hib vaccines.

Some forms of bacterial meningitis affect newborn babies. The most common are E coli, group B streptococcus and Listeria. These types are rare outside of the neonate period. (The neonate period may be defined as the period from birth to approximately 28 days following birth).

Viral meningitis

Viral meningitis is an uncommon complication of some viral illnesses (eg, herpes). Most cases are mild but more severe illnesses sometimes do occur. It is rarely fatal. No antibiotic treatment or vaccine is available for most viral meningitis.

Amoebic meningitis

Amoebic meningitis is a very rare infection. It is caught from stagnant water in waterholes and in poorly chlorinated swimming pools, especially when the water temperature rises above 30°C. Children can become infected when contaminated water is forced up the nose. The organism then reaches the base of the brain directly.

Children should not be allowed to swim in poorly chlorinated swimming pools or stagnant waterholes, particularly on very hot days. Young children should be discouraged from playing with hoses that may force water up their noses.

Fungal meningitis

Some fungi can occasionally cause meningitis, but the disease is rare and usually occurs only in patients whose immune system has been severely depressed by disease, (eg. AIDS, leukaemia, or as a result of drug therapy). Fungal meningitis may be slow and difficult to diagnose and treat.

Disclaimer - The Meningitis Foundation Aotearoa New Zealand promotes the prevention, control and awareness of meningitis. It is not a professional medical authority. The text on this website provides general information about meningitis and septicaemia, not medical advice. It is not intended for use in the diagnosis or treatment of these diseases. Please consult your doctor to discuss the information or if you are concerned someone may be ill.

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