NHS Service

The Deadly Difference Between Viral and Bacterial Meningitis

meningitis vaccination

There are several different types of meningitis, each with its own set of symptoms, treatments, and potential outcomes. It’s most often the result of a viral or a bacterial infection.

Viral meningitis can be caused by several different viruses and is the most common type of meningitis in older children and adults. Viruses linked to viral meningitis include the chickenpox/shingles virus, the enterovirus, and the herpes simplex virus. This type of meningitis is very rarely life-threatening.

Symptoms of viral meningitis are headache, light sensitivity, neck stiffness, and fever. Some people may experience a rash, but it’s different to the rash usually associated with bacterial meningitis.

Bacterial meningitis can develop in people of any age and is often more serious than viral meningitis. It can be caused by many different bacteria, with the most common being meningococcal, pneumococcal, and Haemophilus influenzae.

Symptoms of bacterial meningitis are usually sudden and include fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, light sensitivity, rash, and vomiting. Some people may also have pale skin, cold extremities, confusion, and limb pain.

Newborns and babies can experience irritability, trouble feeding, slowed reflexes, a bulging fontanelle, and may seem slow or inactive.

Viral vs Bacterial Meningitis

Many of the symptoms of viral and bacterial meningitis are similar so it’s important to seek medical care if you think you have either form. Depending on the results of your meningitis test, you may need a specific type of treatment.

Bacterial meningitis is treated with antibiotics, with the type depending on which bacteria is causing the infection. Treatment needs to start as soon as possible to prevent complications.

Viral meningitis has no recommended treatment, but more severe cases may benefit from antiviral medications. Most people will recover on their own and will only need over-the-counter medications to help with symptom relief.

If either type of meningitis becomes serious, hospitalisation may be required.

Meningitis Vaccination in Northolt and Streatham

There is an effective vaccine that protects against three types of bacterial meningitis: Pneumococcal meningitis, Meningococcal meningitis, and Hib meningitis. It can be administered to people of all ages but is recommended for everyone aged 11-18. Boosters and follow-ups can enhance the vaccine’s protection.

Protect yourself and your loved ones with Touchwood Pharmacy’s meningitis vaccination clinic in Northampton and Sydenham.