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Meningitis is an infection of the tissues that cover the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis can be caused by many different germs including viruses and bacteria. See your doctor as soon as possible if you think you have meningitis. Your doctor can determine whether the meningitis is due to viruses or bacteria.

The most common type of meningitis is viral meningitis, which usually lasts less than 10 days. Viral meningitis is generally—but not always—less serious than bacterial meningitis. For viral meningitis information, click here (PDF)

Meningitis caused by bacteria can lead to serious infections. Treatment with an antibiotic should be started right away to stop the infection from causing brain damage or death. For bacterial meningitis information, see Meningococcal Disease.