top of page

What is meningitis?

Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. Every year over 2 million people worldwide are affected by meningitis. Meningitis can be caused by:  

  • Bacteria

  • Viruses

  • Fungi

  • Parasites

  • Non-infectious means such as cancer or lupus.

What to look for

Meningitis can be hard to recognise in the early stages. Symptoms can be similar to those of the common flu, including: fever, rash, vomiting, headache, stiff neck, sensitivity to light, and drowsiness.

Read more about meningitis symptoms.

If someone close to you shows signs of meningitis, seek medical help immediately.

Anyone, anywhere, any time

Did you know that:

  • Bacterial meningitis is the most severe and common form of meningitis and causes around 170,000 deaths globally every year.

  • Even with prompt diagnosis and treatment, approximately 10- 20% of patients with bacterial meningitis will die within 24 to 48 hours after the onset of symptoms, and around 10-30% will sustain permanent damage and disability.

  • Infants and children under five years old and adolescents between 15 and 19 years of age are most at risk. But anyone in the world can get meningitis at any time.

  • Those surviving meningitis can have their lives devastated as a result of long-term effects, such as deafness, brain damage, learning difficulties, seizures, difficulties with physical activities and loss of limbs (due to septicaemia).

  • Many people don’t know the warning signs or that many types of meningitis are largely vaccine-preventable.


Read more about meningitis prevention and treatment.


  1. Murray CJL, Vos T, Naghavi, et al. Disability-adjusted life years (DALYS) for 291 diseases and injuries in 21 regions, 1990-2010: a systemic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study. Lancet 2012;380:2197-223.

  2.  McIntyre PB, O’Brien KL, Greenwood B, van de Beck D. Effect of vaccines on bacterial meningitis worldwide. Lancet 2012; 380: 1703–11


bottom of page