Home › Health Topics › Infections & Immunisation > 
Search Topics


child; meningitis; amoebic; viral; bacterial; headache; fever; rashes; infectious; diseases ;

 Meningitis is an infection around the brain and spinal cord (meninges). It can be caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites (amoeba).



Any child who appears very ill, especially if there is a rash, needs to be urgently seen by a doctor. Rapid treatment may be lifesaving.

Bacterial meningitis

The most common causes of bacterial meningitis in children in Australia are:

  • Neisseria meningitidis (causing meninogcoccal meningitis)
  • Streptococcus pneumonia.

Many people, including children, can have these bacteria in their throat or other parts of the body and they only rarely cause meningitis. Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib), used to be a common cause of bacterial meningitis but since immunisation for Hib is being done, it is now rare in Australia. 

Although rare, when bacterial meningitis occurs it is serious and can be life-threatening.

For more information:

Raising Children Network 

The Children's Hospital at Westmead (New South Wales) 

Viral meningitis

  • Many different viruses can affect the brain and the fluid around it. For example people with mumps can have a severe headache and stiff neck as well as the swollen glands. Other examples of viruses that can cause menigitis are measles, chickenpox and viruses causing gastroenteritis - though often it is not possible to know exactly which virus caused the meningitis.
  • Children almost always recover well from viral meningitis and there are usually no lasting health problems. 

For more information: Department of Health South Australia 'Viral meningitis'.

Amoebic meningitis

  • Amoebic meningitis is a very rare disease, which may be caught while swimming, diving or jumping in warm fresh water.
  • If water in swimming pools is not properly treated (eg chlorinated) amoeba may be present.
  • The amoeba can get into the body through the nose.

For more information: Department of Health, South Australia 'Amoebic meningoencephalitis'

back to top

The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).

This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.

Home › Health Topics › Infections & Immunisation >