Chances of Dying from Meningitis

Most cases of meningitis, an infection of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), are treated successfully and the complications can be prevented.  But sometimes it could turn into serious and life-threatening if left untreated, this is especially true for bacterial meningitis. Early diagnosis and treatment is vital. The chances of dying from the disease may depend on several factors.

Bacterial meningitis

Meningitis is mostly caused by virus infection. Other less common causes are bacterial and fungal infections.

The good news, viral meningitis is rarely associated with serious complications and relatively easier to treat, though sometimes it could also leave you with long-lasting after effects (such as tiredness and headaches). Home treatments are often enough to cope with it.

What takes more attention is bacterial meningitis. Without prompt treatment, it is very dangerous or even life-threating. Fungal meningitis is also dangerous, but it’s not common (rare).


Bacterial meningitis is caused by several types of bacteria. The main ones are Streptococcus pneumonia and Neisseria meningitidis.

The infection can spread from person to person. Bacteria might spread through respiratory or throat secretions, especially when you have a close contact with someone with the infection such as kissing or coughing. The good news although it can spread, it doesn’t spread easily. In fact, most of the bacteria that cause the disease are as not as contagious as many viruses that lead to the flu /common cold.

Even though if the bacteria infect you, this doesn’t mean that you will definitely develop the disease. For example, your body immune system may be strong enough to drive away the infection so you don’t develop the disease.

This suggests that the risk of developing the disease can vary from person to person. According to CDC, the risk factors of bacterial meningitis (factors /conditions that cause increased risk of the disease) are as follows:

  1. Younger children and infants have higher-than-normal risk, although the disease can affect people of any age.
  2. Underlying medical conditions. It’s thought that certain diseases (especially conditions that weaken the immune system) and medications (including some surgical procedures) may cause increased risk for bacterial meningitis.
  3. People who work in environment with meningitis-causing pathogens. For example, if you’re a microbiologist, you tend to be routinely exposed to some types of bacteria that increase your risk of developing the infection.
  4. Traveling factor. For example if you go to areas of meningitis belt such as in sub-Saharan Africa, this is particularly when you have weakened body immune system.
  5. Community setting. Neisseria meningitidis, the cause of meningococcal meningitis, is more likely to spread in community area where large groups of many people gather together.

Vaccination is one of the most effective ways to prevent the disease. Vaccines for some types of bacteria that cause the disease are available. It’s recommended to not skip these vaccines – ask your doctor for more advice!

Signs and symptoms

Common signs and symptoms of bacterial meningitis are as follows:

  1. Sudden onset of stiff neck, fever, and headache.
  2. Unusual skin rash.
  3. More sensitive to light.
  4. Confusion, altered mental status.
  5. Nausea and vomiting.

Those symptoms can vary, which some may not be present. They usually develop quickly, within several hours or over a few days after exposure. If you have any symptom of the disease, see a doctor without delay! For more information about meningitis symptoms, visit this section!

Chances of dying from meningitis

Bacterial meningitis is dangerous because it can lead to serious damage and complications. In the worst scenario, it can lead to death within the first 24-48 hours after the onset of the disease.

Even when the disease doesn’t cause death, it can still cause serious long-term effects such as brain damage and hearing loss. So, it’s very important to treat the disease immediately before it becomes advanced.

The statistic and estimation for the chances of dying from the disease vary from country to country. But in general, the percentage of bacterial cases result in death is quite high.

In the UK, about 10 percent of people who contract with bacterial meningitis may die. In the US, the percentage goes up to 15 percent. And worldwide, about 5-10 percent of patients cannot survive even though with prompt treatment – and up to 50 percent for left untreated cases.

And it seems that the mortality rate is influenced by several factors. Although debatable, these factors are as follows: