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What is the difference between viral and bacterial meningitis?

Page last updated 19 January 2022

Viral meningitis is the most common type of meningitis. It is often less severe than bacterial meningitis and most people are able to make a full recovery. 

Bacterial meningitis progresses rapidly and can be life-threatening. Bacterial meningitis can lead to permanent disabilities (such as brain damage, hearing loss and learning disabilities) or even death.

It’s very important for anyone experiencing symptoms of meningitis to see their doctor right away- only a doctor will be able to diagnose the disease, including the type of meningitis and the best treatment required, which can prevent serious complications.

Sources & Citations

6. Queensland Government. Meningitis (all types). Available at: (accessed December 2021).

7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Viral meningitis. Available at: (accessed December 2021).


MAT-AU2102477  Date of preparation January 2022