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2007 Meningitis Policy
(74 kB)










Page updated 30 April 2007


Key Points

Patients with bacterial meningitis need urgent attention and immediate antibiotics

Source Isolation precautions should be taken initially

The risk to healthcare workers of acquiring meningitis is very low


The prognosis for bacterial meningitis is grave if diagnosis and treatment are delayed. The disease may be very rapidly progressive. Despite antibiotics, the overall mortality is still about 7%. Bacterial meningitis is more common in children than in adults.

The organisms are harboured in, and excreted from the respiratory tract. Close contacts are often carriers of the same organism. Outbreaks of disease may occur in groups of young people in close communities (e.g. in camps, in boarding schools or in army recruitment camps).


Common Causative Organisms

Neisseria meningitidis (meningococcus)

The most common cause. Peaks in young children and young adults. Despite grave anxieties, cross infection in hospital and infections in staff contacts rarely occur.

Haemophilus influenzae

Almost always occurs in young children (3 months to 6 years of age). Often capsulate (type b). Very uncommon in the UK with the introduction of vaccine.

Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus)

Common in the very young and elderly patients. Often virulent strains. Infection commonly follows viral infection.

Other bacteria

Many other bacteria can cause meningitis. For example, in neonates, Group B streptococci, Escherichia coli and Listeria monocytogenes are more common than the bacteria mentioned above. Any other bacterium may cause meningitis as part of a septicaemic illness.

Mycobacterium tuberculosis

This is now very rare in the UK, but it will be suspected in certain populations and on the results of the CSF examination.





Public Health Association, Public Health Laboratory Service. Meningococcal Infection Fact Sheet. 2001