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What is Meningitis?

  • It’s an infectious disease which causes swelling or inflammation of the tissue covering the spinal cord and brain.
  • Three types of bacteria most commonly cause of bacterial meningitis in young children:
    • Meningococcus
    • Pneumococcus
    • Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib)
  • With current immunizations, pneumococcus meningitis bacteria is uncommon and from Hib is rare.
  • Meningitis is most commonly cause by viruses and most cases of viral meningitis is resolved without antimicrobial treatment or complications. Viral meningitis can be confused with bacterial meningitis in the early stages.
  • Viral meningitis usually occurs during the summer and early fall months in temperate climates.
  • Viral meningitis in infants can cause neurological / developmental problems in a small percentage of cases.

Signs or Symptoms

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • May have some stiff neck
  • Irritability
  • Photophobia (sensitivity to light)
  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Seizures
  • Coma

How Is It Spread?

  1. Direct contact with respiratory secretions
  2. Fecal – oral route (enterovirus)

How Do You Control It?

  1. Bacterial meningitis
    1. Immunizations from last recommendation
    2. Antibiotic prophylaxis indicate contact
    3. Vaccinate under-immunized child as indicated by local health department
  2. Viral meningitis
    1. Hand washing
    2. Routine infection control measures
    3. Immunization according to current universal schedule recommended by AAP, ACIP, and AAFP

What are the Incubation and Contagious Periods?

  • Incubation period
    • Used for the most common cause of viral meningitis:  3-6 days
    • Used for Hib:  Unknown
    • Used for meningococcus and pneumococcus:  Less than 4 days
  • Contagious Period
    • For enterovirus viral meningitis:  Shedding of the virus in feces can continue on for several weeks, but shedding from the respiratory tract usually lasts for about a week or less.
    • For Hib, meningococcus, and pneumococcus:  Until after 24 hours of antibiotics

Caregiver, Teacher, and Family Roles

  • Report all infections to staff members who are designated by the child care program or school in order to make an informed decision and action related to the care of the ill child. Then alert all family members and staff to watch out for symptoms
  • Report the infection to the health department.
  • Distinguish between viral and bacterial meningitis.
  • If it is bacterial meningitis, contact the health professional or health department to see if preventive antibiotic treatment is available for the child to take.
  • Teach children, caregivers, and teachers to cover their nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing. Remove all soiled or contaminated clothing. Remember to wash hands immediately after using facial tissue or contact with mucus in order to prevent the spread of disease from contaminated hands.
  • Dispose of facial tissues that contain nasal secretions after each use.
  • Always practice good hand hygiene.

Group Settings

  • Exclude children from all group settings as soon as it is suspected.
  • Readmit children to group settings when the child is cleared to return by a health professional.

Readmit children to group settings when the child is able to participate and staff members determine that they can care for the child without compromising the ability to care for the health and safety of other children in the group.


Information on this site is intended for Angel Kids Pediatrics patients only. Always consult your doctor before beginning, modifying, or discontinuing any treatment plan.

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