Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges, the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. It is usually caused by bacteria or viruses, but it can also be caused by certain medications or illnesses.
Bacterial meningitis is rare, but is usually serious and can be life-threatening if it's not treated right away. Viral meningitis (also called aseptic meningitis) is relatively common and far less serious. It often remains undiagnosed because its symptoms can be similar to those of the common flu.
Kids of any age can get meningitis, but because it can be easily spread between people living in close quarters, teens, college students, and boarding-school students are at higher risk for infection.
If dealt with promptly, meningitis can be treated successfully. So it's important to get routine vaccinations, know the signs of meningitis, and if you suspect that your child has the illness, seek medical care right away.