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Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the spinal cord and the brain- known as the meninges, which protect the brain from injury and infection. It is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection.

Two most common types of meningitis;

  • Bacterial – Life threatening.

Meningococcal disease is caused by the bacterium meningococcus. There are five main groups A,B,CW and Y, which cause disease around the world. Group B is the most common group in Ireland.

  • Viral – Non- life threatening.

Many different viruses cause meningitis ; the most common are a group called enteroviruses. These live in the intestine and only rarely do these spread around the body to the meninges and cause meningitis.

Meningococcal disease is the term used to describe meningitis and septicaemia and is a life-threatening disease. Meningitis and septicaemia (infection of the blood) can occur alone but more often they occur together causing severe illness that can result in death.