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Viral Versus Bacterial Meningitis

Viral versus Bacterial Meningitis
HWC Team
January29/ 2016

There is a membrane that covers the brain and the spinal cord, known as meninges. This membrane, delicate in nature, when affected by infection, leads to Meningitis.  These menenges can be affected by viral or bacterial infection, and both will cause meningitis. The viral or bacterial infection can also affect other parts of the body, like sinuses, ears etc, and from there it can spread to the brain or spinal cord membrane. However, occasionally Meningitis can also be caused by fungal infection.

Viral Versus Bacterial Meningitis

There are certain differences between meningitis cause by virus infection and that caused by bacterial infection. Here are some important points about both the infections.


Bacterial meningitis is more dangerous than its viral counterpart. It is a disease that is extremely serious and needs immediate medical attention. On the other hand, though viral meningitis can also lead to death, this is considered a less serious threat than bacterial meningitis. People can even recover without specific treatment in 7 to 10 days.

Brain Damage

Bacterial meningitis can seriously damage the brain, if it actually does not kill the victim. There are a number of bacteria which can cause this disease. These are Neisseria meningitides, Streptococcuspneumoniae, etc. Various types of virus can also trigger viral meningitis, even those which cause diarrhea. In cases of viral meningitis, it is less likely that the brain of the patient will be permanently damaged even after recovery, unlike bacterial meningitis.

Difference in Symptoms

Viral meningitis is manifested through symptoms such as headache, sudden fever, tendencies of vomiting, nausea, stiff neck, among other things. The symptoms of bacterial meningitis are not too different. Therefore, it is important to diagnose, which kind of meningitis a patient has, at once, because, though viral meningitis is less serious, bacterial meningitis could be fatal, or in cases where the patient survives, it can have permanent affect on their brain, hearing system or liver.


In cases of bacterial meningitis, the bacteria can spread from one person to another, through coughs and sneezes, eating from the same utensils or sharing a drink. The same can also be said for viral meningitis. However, it is also true, that most of the bacteria causing meningitis do not spread as easily as those of common cold and flu does. That is, coming to casual contact with an ailing person will not mean that you will end up having this disease.

Vaccine Barrier

Among the different types of bacterial meningitis, the most common ones can usually be prevented from spreading through vaccines. On the other hand, unfortunately, the commonest viral meningitis cannot be prevented by using vaccines. Also, the latter generally affects children below 5 years of age, though it can attack adults too.

There are 5 types of meningitis, of which, viral and bacterial meningitis are the most common ones. Again, among these two, the bacterial disease is more serious in nature. Almost anyone can be affected by this disease, but people who have medical history, are more susceptible. Therefore it is important to seek medical advice in case of any meningitis.

HWC Team

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