Health A-Z

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The bacteria and viruses that cause meningitis are found in bodily fluids, such as saliva and mucus, and are spread by direct contact. Some people carry the germs in their nose and throat and can pass them on to other people, even though these "carriers" are not sick. If you are in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with bacterial meningitis, you may be given antibiotics to prevent you from getting the disease.

Vaccination against Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumonia shot), Haemophilus influenzae and Neisseria meningitidis is the best way to prevent bacterial meningitis.

There is no vaccine to prevent the common types of viral meningitis.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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