How soon do symptoms of bacterial meningitis develop?

Updated: Jul 16, 2019
  • Author: Rodrigo Hasbun, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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Approximately 25% of patients with bacterial meningitis present acutely, well within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms. Occasionally, if a patient has been taking antibiotics for another infection, meningitis symptoms may take longer to develop or may be less intense.

Approximately 25% of patients have concomitant sinusitis or otitis that could predispose to S pneumoniae meningitis. [18] In contrast, patients with subacute bacterial meningitis and most patients with viral meningitis present with neurologic symptoms developing over 1-7 days. Chronic symptoms lasting longer than 1 week suggest the presence of meningitis caused by certain viruses or by tuberculosis, syphilis, fungi (especially cryptococci), or carcinomatosis.

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