Every year, more than one million people around the globe develop meningitis, an infection of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.\nLeft untreated, this illness can cause serious complications and even death. Learn about who’s most at-risk, as well as the telltale symptoms of this dangerous illness.\nThe Different Forms of Meningitis\nMeningitis can be caused by a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection. In the United States, most cases are the result of a virus and cause inflammation of the meninges, the protective membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord.\nAlthough the condition is most common in infants and college-age students, it can occur in anyone at any age.\nDid you know that #meningitis is most common in infants and college-aged students? Click To Tweet\nIn the United States, viral meningitis is usually caused by a group of viruses known as enteroviruses, which are most common in late summer and early fall. Viral meningitis also frequently occurs alongside other illnesses, such as West Nile virus, HIV, mumps, and herpes simplex virus. Most cases are mild and will eventually clear up on their own.\nOn the other hand, bacterial meningitis is life threatening. It can be caused by bacterial responsible for ear infections, sinus infections, upper respiratory infections, as well as Listeria, the foodborne bacteria found in luncheon meat and unpasteurized cheese.\nFungal meningitis is rare but life threatening. It is most commonly found in people with compromised immune systems.\nMeningitis is most likely in:\n\nChildren younger than five years of age\nPregnant women\nPeople who live in group settings, such as college dorms, boarding schools, and military facilities\nPeople with compromised immune systems, such as those with HIV\/AIDS or diabetes, who take immunosuppressant drugs, or who are alcoholics\nPeople who have not been vaccinated against the disease\n\n\u00a0\nMeningitis Symptoms to Watch for\nMeningitis symptoms emerge suddenly, often within just several hours or days. Many symptoms mimic those of the flu, and some people may assume that’s what they have. In people older than two years of age, it can cause:\n\nStiff neck\nHeadache (often severe)\nSudden high fever\nSensitivity to light\nDrowsiness\nSeizures\nLack of appetite\nRash\n\nIn infants, symptoms of meningitis include:\n\nHigh fever\nConstant crying\nDrowsiness\nSluggishness\nStiff neck or body\nA bulge or bump on top of the head\nFailure to feed\n\nIf you or a loved one experience these symptoms \u2014 particularly a stiff neck, fever, and headache \u2014 seek medical attention immediately.\nThe viral form of the disease is usually treated with fluids, rest, and over-the-counter pain medications. Antibiotics, typically administered intravenously, are the treatment of choice for bacterial meningitis. Treatment is crucial because bacterial meningitis can be fatal, as well as cause long-term complications such as brain damage, hearing loss, kidney failure, and seizures.\nYour doctor\u00a0can give you more details about meningitis, including information about vaccinations that can help protect against this disease.