Difference Between Meningitis and Encephalitis

Meningitis and encephalitis may be the most terrifying diseases in medicine. Bacterial meningitis and viral encephalitis may be rapidly fatal, even in healthy persons. Survivors may suffer lasting neurological sequelae, including memory loss and seizures. Viral meningitis, by contrast, gives patients a bad headache and a stiff neck, but uneventful recovery is the rule.

Some of the differences between Meningitis and Encephalitis are as follows:

1DefinitionMeningitis is an inflammation of the three membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord (the meninges).Encephalitis is an acute inflammation of the brain (Brain Parenchyma).
2Causative AgentBacteria, Viruses and FungiMostly Viruses
3Common CausesStreptococcus pneumoniae and Neisseria meningitides are the most common causes of meningitis in adults.Herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1) and Japanese Encephalitis are the most important causes of encephalitis in adults.
4FormsMeningitis  can be only one form.Encephalitis can be divided into two forms, primary and secondary encephalitis. Primary encephalitis occurs when a virus directly invades the brain and spinal cord. Secondary, or post-infectious encephalitis occurs when a virus first infects another organ and secondarily enters the brain.
5SymptomsHeadache, fever, confusion, drowsiness, and fatigue.  Also seizures or convulsions, tremors, hallucinations, and memory problems.Headache and neck stiffness associated with fever, confusion or altered consciousness, vomiting, and an inability to tolerate light (photophobia) or loud noises (phonophobia).
6DiagnosisPhysical examination,


followed by CBC with differential, C-reactive protein, and blood for

Gram stain and culture.

Clinical presentation and supported by spinal fluid analysis and neuroimaging  abnormalities,  CSF PCR.
7RashSkin discoloration or rash  may be presentAbsent
8Altered Mental StatusNo focal deficits or AMSAltered Mental Status
9TreatmentAmpicillin is usually prescribed along with an aminoglycoside or a cephalosporin (cefotaxime) medication.Acyclovir, and is usually administered intravenously in the hospital for at least ten days.

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7 thoughts on “Difference Between Meningitis and Encephalitis”

  1. I had viral encephalitis herpes simplex1. At age 42 was given acyclovir.
    Major residual is a jaw tremor, some spacial issues and exhaustion when around people too much, pressure in head from music.

    Mine was right frontal lobe damage which regulates emotions

  2. I think the symptoms section is wrong, that’s the other way around. Headache neck stiffness phono/photphobia & vomiting occur more frequently in meningitidis. Good article tough


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