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What is meningitis? Types and causes

There are many different causes of meningitis, but the two most common organisms are viruses and bacteria. 

  • Viral meningitis is usually a mild disease, but it can make people very unwell. Many thousands of cases occur each year, mostly affecting babies and children. Although most people will make a full recovery, some are left with serious and debilitating after-effects.
  • Bacterial meningitis can be life-threatening and needs urgent medical attention. Most people who suffer from bacterial meningitis recover, but many can be left with a variety of after-effects and one in 10 will die.
  • The main bacteria that cause meningitis in the UK are Meningococcal, Pneumococcal, TB and Hib.
  • Neonatal meningitis occurs in babies under one month old. Other causes of meningitis are all serious and need medical attention.
  • Fungal meningitis is rare and usually caused by the spread of a fungus through blood to the spinal cord.
  • Group B Streptococcal meningitis typically occurs in newborn babies and can cause serious illness including septicaemia and pneumonia.
  • Other type of meningitis can include chemical meningitis, Mollaret's meningitis and several non-infections strains.

Want to know more about meningitis?

If so, you can speak to experienced staff on our freephone helpline, 0808 80 10 388, or you can email us at [email protected] and we will come back to you as soon as we can.

You can also download one of our free leaflets or fact sheets. Please note these booklets were produced before we changed our name to Meningitis Now. All the information in the booklets is correct and up-to-date.

doc_pdf.jpgMeningitis can affect anyone

supporting you leaflet cover.jpg 

doc_pdf.jpg Support for life

Home from hospital

Bereavment following meningitis
Bereavement following meningitis


Meningitis and childhood deafness – produced in association with the National Deaf Children’s Society 

Fact sheets

doc_pdf.jpg Meningococcal disease – the facts
doc_pdf.jpg Pneumococcal meningitis– the facts
doc_pdf.jpg Meningitis vaccines – the facts
doc_pdf.jpg Tuberculous (TB) meningitis – the facts
doc_pdf.jpg Viral meningitis – the facts
doc_pdf.jpg Neonatal meningitis - the facts
doc_pdf.jpg Learning and development concerns after meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia
doc_pdf.jpg Benefits fact sheet
doc_pdf.jpg Grants fact sheet
doc_pdf.jpg Complementary therapies fact sheet
doc_pdf.jpg Meningitis Trust Support services fact sheet


Meningitis Now is the new name for Meningitis UK and the Meningitis Trust. Our goals remain the same – saving lives and rebuilding futures.

Find out more

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Join our online forums to share your experiences with others affected by meningitis.

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Spot the signs

More than 5.3 million adults in the UK can't name a single meningitis sign or symptom. Make sure you're not one of them.

Learn all the signs and symptoms.

Meningitis Helpline

0808 80 10 388 (UK)

Available 9am to 12 midnight


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