Is Spinal Meningitis Contagious?

Is spinal meningitis contagious? No, yes, maybe... Why speculate when you have a whole article written on this condition. Simply scroll down and read.
Spinal meningitis, or simply called meningitis, is a medical condition where the spinal cord and the brain are affected. The condition is called so because membranes that envelop the brain and spinal cord get inflamed. These membranes are known as meninges thus, the name. In most cases, a viral infection happens to be the cause of the inflammation. However, bacterial and fungal infections can also be the offenders.

Symptoms and Causes

The common spinal meningitis symptoms include:
  • High fever, and it may be accompanied by stiffness in the neck.
  • There might occur a headache, which won't be same as the ordinary one.
  • In kids, the symptom may manifest itself in the form of confusion and difficulty in concentrating.
  • Sensitivity to light may be increased, and the person may have no interest in drinking and eating.
  • Other symptoms which might accompany these may include skin rash, seizures, and nausea or vomiting.
Coming to the causes, as already mentioned, virus, bacteria and fungi are known to be the main factors which cause this disease to set in. A group of virus known as enteroviruses the most common offenders for causing viral meningitis in adults and children. The condition is more common in children. People with a compromised immunity stay more vulnerable to develop fungal meningitis. Apart from all these infectious diseases, there are some which are non-infectious. These may include certain types of cancer, allergies triggered by the use of drugs and certain inflammatory diseases such as lupus.

In case of bacterial spinal meningitis, the causal agents make their entrance to the bloodstream and later migrate to the brain and spinal cord, thus causing the infection. Common strains of bacteria which are known to be the causes include:
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus)
  • Neisseria meningitidis (meningococcus)
  • Haemophilus influenzae (haemophilus)
  • Listeria monocytogenes (listeria)
Transmission of Spinal Meningitis

Spinal Meningitis is classified under contagious medical conditions. If we speak of viral spinal meningitis contagious period, a patient can remain contagious for 2 days to 2 weeks, depending upon the type of organism that has caused the infection. The patient can infect another person with his respiratory secretions, while sneezing or coughing.

And about the bacterial spinal meningitis, the patient is contagious for the same period of time. However, the good thing is, it is less contagious than the viral one. This is due to the fact that the organisms do not survive for long outside the human body. Mode of transmission of the infection includes kissing, drinking from the same glass, sharing toothbrush, and any other means through which saliva gets exchanged. Also, not all strains of bacteria happen to be contagious.


Depending upon the type of meningitis, the treatment is decided. In case of the bacterial form, antibiotics are administered intravenously. Nowadays, cortisone-like medications are also used so as to reduce the risk of complications. When it comes to viral spinal meningitis, antibiotics do not come of any use. Moreover, this type tends to get resolved on its own within a few weeks, without any kind of treatment.

Spinal meningitis can be easily prevented by maintaining proper hygiene and not indulging in practices that can lead to infection. That would include avoiding use of items used by the person suffering from it, washing hands thoroughly before meals, following a healthy diet and regular exercises, and being careful about the food choices if pregnant. Some forms of bacterial meningitis can be prevented with the help of vaccinations, but as far as the viral type is concerned, taking self-care measures such as the above ones is important. Take care!
By Rajib Singha
Published: 12/31/2010
Have Something to Say?