Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes (meninges) surrounding your brain and spinal cord.

The swelling associated with meningitis often triggers the "hallmark" signs and symptoms of this condition, including headache, fever and a stiff neck.

Most cases of meningitis in the U.S. are caused by a viral infection, but bacterial and fungal infections also can lead to meningitis. Depending on the cause of the infection, meningitis can get better on its own in a couple of weeks — or it can be a life-threatening emergency requiring urgent antibiotic treatment.

If you suspect that you or someone in your family has meningitis, seek medical care right away. Early treatment of bacterial meningitis can prevent serious complications.

Mar. 19, 2013