Meningitis is a disease caused by inflammation of the membranes—known as meninges—that surround the brain and spinal cord. This condition—which can be severe, depending on what type is contracted—is usually caused by an infection of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)–the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
The inflammation associated with meningitis often causes the three hallmark signs and symptoms of this condition:
- Stiff neck
The disease is contagious and is spread through the exchange of respiratory droplets resulting from coughing or sneezing, or from direct contact, like kissing.
Meningitis may be acute with a quick onset of symptoms, or it can be chronic, with slowly developing and longer lasting symptoms of a month or more in duration. Quick recognition of this condition is vital, as certain types of meningitis it can quickly lead to serious illness and death.