There are three types of meningitis: viral, bacterial and fungal, according to WebMD. Meningitis is an infection of the meninges, which are delicate membranes that protect the brain and the spinal cord. Bacterial meningitis is potentially fatal and transmitted easily among people who are in close contact with one another.
Bacterial meningitis is a very serious illness necessitating immediate medical attention, notes WebMD. The illness can cause death within a matter of hours or lead to permanent brain damage. The most common cause of bacterial meningitis in the United States is meningococcus bacteria. Sneezing and coughing are common transmission modes.
Viral meningitis is less serious, and most people who get it recover completely, notes WebMD. It is triggered by a virus. The illness rarely causes brain damage. It is the most common form of meningitis. Fungal meningitis is the least common form of meningitis, and usually only seen in people with weakened immune systems.
Although anyone is susceptible to meningitis, it is more commonly seen in children 5 years old or under, teens and young people from ages 16 through 25 and adults 55 years old and older. People with certain conditions, such as chronic disease or damaged spleens, often have a poorer prognosis when contracting the disease than healthier people.