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Meningitis is a medical emergency. It can develop quickly, over a matter of hours.

Diagnosis and treatment of meningitis varies from country to country, depending on access to medical care, availability of antibiotics and local antibiotic resistance patterns.


Wherever you are, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms and to get medical treatment fast. 



In order to diagnose meningitis, doctors may do a blood test and take a sample of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), the watery fluid that flows in and around the brain and spinal cord.

CSF is collected through a lumbar puncture and examined for the presence of white blood cells and bacteria. Blood and CSF samples will be cultured for the presence of bacteria.


Treatment should not be delayed for more than 1-2 hours while diagnostic tests are taking place.


Bacterial meningitis 

Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial meningitis. Your doctor will choose the most appropriate antibiotic for you based on the type of meningitis and on the country where you live. Increasing antibiotic resistance is a factor in antibiotic selection.



If signs of septicaemia are present, treatment should be started as soon as possible. Diagnostic tests should be deferred until antibiotics have been given.

Viral meningitis

Antibiotics do not kill viruses. Although viral meningitis is more common than bacterial meningitis, treatment with injectable antibiotics should be started until a bacterial cause can be excluded. Treatment for viral meningitis is generally rest and pain relievers. 


Survivors of bacterial meningitis may require ongoing treatment or therapy after their recovery. Almost all patients with viral meningitis recover without any permanent damage, although full recovery may take weeks to months.

Read more about the after effects of meningitis.

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