ZocdocAnswersHow do you get meningitis?

Question

How do you get meningitis?

My friend at college started getting nauseous and feverish and the doctor told her she has meningitis. Is it contagious? Could I also get meningitis from hanging out with her, like getting a cold?

Answer

Meningitis is an infection of the lining that surrounds the brain. Most cases of meningitis are caused by viruses and, although unpleasant, will improve and get better without causing any major problems. However a small percentage of cases of meningitis are caused by bacteria, and these can be life threatening and require urgent medical care and hospitalization. It is important to know if this was bacterial meningitis because friends and close contacts of a case of bacterial meningitis do need to take antibiotics to prevent potentially becoming infected. I would suggest that you talk with your primary doctor at the college health center. If this is a case of bacterial meningitis, they will be aware of it and they will be able to take the necessary steps to protect your from infection by prescribing you the antibiotics. Also, if you have not had the meningitis vaccine yet, you should take this opportunity to ask your doctor to give that vaccine to you in order to protect you against future meningitis exposures. Make sure to see your primary care doctor soon to discuss this important issue.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.