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Meningitis is a viral or bacterial infection of the cerebral spinal fluid that causes inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. Viral meningitis is usually caused by a common intestinal virus, but can be caused by a number of viruses. Less frequently, it can be associated with mumps, herpes, or other viral diseases. A number of bacteria including haemophilus influenza type B (haemophilus meningitis), streptococcus pneumonia (pneumococcal meningitis) and Neisseria meningitis (meningococcal meningitis) can cause bacterial meningitis. Viral meningitis is much more common but bacterial meningitis causes much more severe illness. It is important to distinguish between the two types, as bacterial meningitis requires rapid diagnosis and treatment.

Signs and Symptoms:

The signs and symptoms for both viral and bacterial meningitis are the same and include:


• High fever

• Severe headache 

• Stiff neck (nuchal rigidity) 

• Photosensitivity 

• Drowsiness 

• Confusion 

• Nausea and vomiting 

• Fatigue 

• Sore throat 

• Petechiae (advanced sign) 

• Seizures (advanced sign)



Modes of Transmission:

Meningitis spreads from person-to-person through respiratory droplets from coughing and sneezing. Procedures such as suctioning can also cause droplet spread. Droplets can be travel through the air approximately 3 feet. Patients with meningitis are most likely to spread the infection at the time they are diagnosed.







Viral meningitis is the most common type of meningitis. It is often less severe than bacterial meningitis, and most people get better on their own (without treatment). It is serious but rarely fatal in persons with normal immune systems. Usually a person will experience symptoms for seven to ten days and recover completely. Non-polio entero viruses are the most common cause of viral meningitis in the United States, especially from late spring to fall when these viruses spread most often. Other viruses that can cause meningitis are


Mode/ Examples of Transmission:

The transmission of viral meningitis varies. The virus is most commonly spread through direct close contact with fecal matter or respiratory secretions of an infected person. Less common is the spread of a virus that can cause meningitis through an insect bite; such as West Nile Virus. Most people will be exposed to these viruses at some point in their life, but fewer than one in one thousand infected persons will actually develop viral meningitis.


If you have close contact with a person who has viral meningitis, you are more likely to become infected with the virus that made that person sick. However, you are not likely to develop meningitis. Only one in one thousand of those infected with viral meningitis will develop the disease.

Prevention: There are no vaccines to protect against non-polio enteroviruses, but there are some vaccinations can protect against diseases such as measles, mumps, chickenpox, and influenza, that can lead to viral meningitis. 




Exposure Determination:

A significant exposure to meningitis is defined as a close contact with respiratory secretions while performing invasive procedures such as intubation where saliva-to-saliva contact is possible and protective personal equipment is not worn. Immediately Following Exposure: It is impossible to identify patients suffering from viral meningitis versus those with bacterial meningitis without testing blood or cerebrospinal fluid

General Post Exposure Treatment : Antibiotics are given to close contacts of patients with meningitis caused by Neisseria meningitidis.“Close contacts include household members, child care center contacts, and anyone directly exposed to the patient’s oral secretions (e.g., through kissing, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, endotracheal intubation, or endotracheal tube management).” Antibiotics should start as soon as possible after exposure, within 24 hours if possible.


Paperwork Required:


  1. OC Public Health Communicable Disease Exposure Form (policy 330.96) with Fire incident number on top. Should be faxed while still in the hospital Fax: (714) 564-4050 But per policy report IMMEDIATELY by telephone.

OC Public Health Communicable Disease Exposure Form

  1. The City “Report of Employee Injury” form

  2. Medical Service Order- RM -67 (when medical care is required)

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