Inflammation of the meninges. Bacteria (including meningococcus, among others), often from infection elsewhere, produce the most dangerous forms. Symptoms develop rapidly: vomiting, then severe bursting headache, then stiff neck. Young children may have convulsions. The patient may die within hours. Pus in cerebrospinal fluid can block brain passages and spinal spaces, leading to life-threatening hydrocephalus. Speedy diagnosis (by lumbar puncture) and treatment (with antibiotics) can prevent brain damage and death. Viral meningitis usually has a short course and requires no therapy.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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