Meningococcal disease, meningococcal meningitis, septicaemia

What is meningitis?

Meningitis is an infection of the protective membranes (known as meninges) that surround the brain and spinal cord. 

What causes meningitis?

There are three types of meningitis: bacterial, viral and fungal. Meningitis is usually caused by a bacterial or viral infection. Bacterial meningitis is rarer but more serious than viral meningitis.

Infections that cause meningitis can be spread through:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Kissing
  • Sharing utensils, cutlery and toothbrushes

Meningitis is usually caught from people who carry these viruses or bacteria in their nose or throat, but are not ill themselves.

It can also be caught from someone with meningitis, but this is less common.

What are the symptoms of meningitis?

Common symptoms of meningitis include:

  • High fever
  • Headache
  • Stiff neck
  • A red or purple blotchy rash which does not disappear when pressed with a clear glass tumbler (this can start as tiny red or brown pin prick marks)

Other symptoms include:

  • Cold hands and feet
  • Paleness
  • Breathlessness
  • A dislike of bright lights
  • Seizures

Meningitis can be extremely dangerous if not taken care of immediately. A bacterial infection can be fatal within days without antibiotics. Delayed treatment increases the risk of permanent brain damage or death.

Are you affected by meningitis?

If you’re affected by meningitis, The Brain Charity can support you.

We are the only charity in the UK to be here for every one of the more than 600 different neurological conditions in existence. Individually, many are rare, but combined, they affect 1 in 6 people.

We provide practical help, emotional support such as counselling, phone befriending and group therapy and social activities for people from all over the UK from our centre in Liverpool.

Looking to talk to someone?

Woman smiling, making eye contact and holding the hand of another woman to comfort her

Phone us

Contact The Brain Charity now

Our friendly Information & Advice Officers are here to help. We endeavour to respond to all enquiries within 10 working days.

0151 298 2999

Looking to talk to someone?

  • Please tell us which neurological condition you are affected by and what you need support with.

Caring for someone with meningitis

While it is uncommon, meningitis can be caught in babies and young children and can be life-threatening, so it’s important that vaccinations are given to not only protect against meningitis but several other viral infections too.

If you are caring for someone who has meningitis, it is important to avoid contact as much as possible until the infection has passed. While it is not highly contagious, prolonged close contact with an infected person may increase the chances of infection.

We support carers, friends and family too

Are you a carer for or relative of someone who has experienced meningitis? It’s just as important for you to look after your own physical and mental wellbeing too.

The Brain Charity provides free support for carers, friends and family of people with any form of neurological condition, including meningitis, from anywhere in the UK.

We also run an additional carers advocacy service for all carers in Liverpool, regardless of which type of condition the person they care for has.

You don’t need to be a formal or registered carer

We can help you even if you don’t view yourself as a formal carer or claim Carer’s Allowance. Find out some of the ways we support carers below.

Other resources

The Brain Charity's library

The Brain Charity’s library has a range of resources on meningitis

Visit our library to read ‘Meningitis‘ by the Brain and Spine Foundation, or search the online catalogue here.


Support groups

Support groups at The Brain Charity

Are you interested in setting up a meningitis support group, or do you already run one? Email to let us know.

Alternatively, you can check out our list of related support groups here.

Other charities

Meningitis Now


Free nurse helpline: 0800 80 10 388


Meningitis Research Foundation


Phone: 080 8800 3344