Is Bacterial Meningitis Contagious?

Bacterial meningitis is contagious. If you’ve been around someone who has it, call your healthcare provider to talk about how to keep from getting sick. It depends on the type of bacteria.

Bacterial meningitis caused by Neisseria meningitidis or Haemophilus influenzae can be spread by droplets of saliva or mucus from the mouth, nose, or throat of an infected person, usually when the person coughs or sneezes.

Spread of the bacteria usually occurs after very close contact or contact for a long period of time with an infected person in the same household, daycare center, college dormitory, or military barrack.

The bacteria can also spread through direct contact with an infected person’s oral secretions (such as by kissing, sharing eating/drinking utensils, or, sharing cigarettes). The bacteria are not spread by casual contact or by simply breathing the air where a person with meningitis has been.

Other meningitis-causing bacteria are not spread person-to-person but can cause disease because a person has certain risk factors (such as a weak immune system), or can spread by eating contaminated food. Tell your healthcare provider if you may have been exposed to someone with meningitis.

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