Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP is the Chair of the Department of Medicine at Michigan State University. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt Medical School, and completed her residency in Internal Medicine and a fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Indiana University.
With early diagnosis and prompt treatment, most people recover from bacterial meningitis. The recovery also depends on the person's age and condition, on how severe the illness is, and the type of invading bacteria.
In some extreme cases, especially when the disease comes on rapidly with neurologic impairment, the disease progresses so quickly that death occurs during the first 48 hours, despite early treatment.
Delayed complications of bacterial infections of the central nervous system could include seizure disorder, intellectual deficits, blindness, hearing impairment, and various other nervous system problems.
Viral infections usually take a mild, short, and relatively harmless course, with complete recovery. Few very rare types of encephalitis are severe, with a possibility of permanent impairment and even death. Most other offending organisms, such as parasites and fungi, are rarely life threatening and have a very good outcome.