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Learning About Bacterial Meningitis

The brain, normal and with inflammation

What is bacterial meningitis?

Bacterial meningitis (say "meh-nun-JY-tus") is a serious infection of the tissues that surround the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms usually develop all of a sudden.

When you have this infection, it can injure your brain and can cause death. You may need special care, such as being in the intensive care unit (ICU). Your care team will watch you closely and make any needed changes in treatment right away.

How is it treated?

Treatment takes place in the hospital. Treatment may include:

  • Antibiotics to treat infection.
  • Medicines to treat other symptoms, such as fever and muscle aches, pressure on the brain, and seizures, if they occur.
  • Help with breathing. You may have a tube down your throat that is attached to a machine (ventilator).
  • Fluids or nutrition through a vein (IV).
  • Supportive care. You will be watched carefully to help prevent serious problems such as hearing loss, seizures, and brain damage.

What can you expect?

How long it takes you to get better depends on how bad the illness is. It can take from just a couple of weeks to many months. You may have changes in how you think or concentrate. These symptoms get better over time in most people.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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