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.
Various types of brain infections develop many different symptoms, which can depend on the age of the person, the type of bacteria, the type of infection, and the acuteness of the disease.
In general, people older than 2 years of age with acute bacterial infection develop high fever, severe headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, discomfort looking into bright light, sleepiness, and confusion.
Newborns and infants can be unusually fussy, irritable, and sleepy. They may feed poorly and not be comforted by holding. Seizures could be a late development of the disease.
Severe forms of bacterial meningitis, particularly meningococcal, could cause shock with complete loss of consciousness and coma and bring about a spreading purplish rash. A child could have bulging "soft spots" on the head and have a decreased muscle tone in arms and legs.
Someone with viral brain infections tends to appear somewhat less ill. Flu-like symptoms in addition to mild signs and symptoms outlined for each condition could develop.