ZocdocAnswersHow does meningitis spread?

Question

How does meningitis spread?

A coworker was diagnosed with meningitis last week. We work in close proximity and now I'm starting to feel a little under the weather, though it could just be a bit of paranoia! Could I catch meningitis through the air? Should I be worried about contracting it?

Answer

Meningitis is an infection of the lining that covers the brain. It can be a very dangerous condition, especially if it is not diagnosed and treated early. There are many causes of meningitis including several bacteria such as two strains of Streptococcus, Neisseria meningitidis, Haemophilius influenzae and viruses such as a group of enteroviruses, herpes viruses, and HIV among many others. The bacteria that cause meningitis travel through the blood to reach the covering of the brain and infect it. Unfortunately, many of the bacteria that cause meningitis colonize the nose and throat and as your concern points out are transmitted through respiratory droplets. Viral meningitis can be transmitted in much the same way, though it is also spread by fecal-oral routes and insect bites. Luckily, only family members and contacts working within approximately three feet of those who have meningitis are considered to be at high risk. If you do work in close contact with your colleague who was diagnosed with meningitis there is effective antibacterial prophylaxis for some forms. Contact your primary care physician for who can help you get the right treatment. Also, you should contact your primary care physician or go to the Emergency Room if you develop fever, sore throat, rash or other concerning symptoms. Good luck!

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