How is acute meningitis differentiated from subacute or chronic meningitis?

Updated: Jul 16, 2019
  • Author: Rodrigo Hasbun, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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Unlike subacute (developing over 1-7 days) or chronic (>7 days) meningitis, which have myriad infectious and noninfectious etiologies, acute meningitis (< 1 day) is almost always a bacterial infection caused by 1 of several organisms. Depending on age and general condition, these gravely ill patients present acutely with signs and symptoms of meningeal inflammation and systemic infection of less than 24 hours’ (and usually >12 hours’) duration.

Patients with acute bacterial meningitis may decompensate very quickly. Consequently, they require emergency care, including the administration of appropriate antimicrobial therapy as soon as possible once bacterial meningitis is suspected or proven.

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