Causes of Spinal Meningitis
Meningococcal meningitis, which is caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitides, is common in children ages 2 to 18. Each year in the United States, about 2,600 people get this highly contagious disease. High-risk groups include:
- Infants under the age of one year
- People with suppressed immune systems
- Travelers to foreign countries where the disease is endemic
- College students (freshmen in particular) who reside in dormitories.
Between 10 and 15 percent of cases are fatal, with another 10 to 15 percent causing brain damage and other serious side effects.
Haemophilus meningitis was at one time the most common form of bacterial meningitis. Fortunately, the Haemophilus influenzae b vaccine has greatly reduced the number of cases in the United States. Those most at risk of getting this disease are children in child-care settings and children who do not have access to the vaccine.
Other Forms of Bacterial Meningitis
Other forms of bacterial meningitis include:
- Listeria monocytogenes meningitis, which can cross the placental barrier and cause a baby to be stillborn or die shortly after birth
- Escherichia coli meningitis, which is most common in elderly adults and newborns and may be transmitted to a baby through the birth canal
- Mycobacterium tuberculosis meningitis, a rare disease that occurs when the bacterium that causes tuberculosis attacks the meninges.
Viral meningitis (also known as aseptic meningitis) is the most common form of meningitis in the United States.