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Meningitis in Adults (cont.)

What Are Symptoms and Signs of Meningitis in Adults?

About 25% of those who develop meningitis have symptoms that develop over 24 hours. The remainder generally become ill over one to seven days. Occasionally, if someone has been on antibiotics for another infection, the symptoms can take longer to develop or may be less intense. If someone is developing fungal meningitis (most commonly someone who is HIV positive), the symptoms may take weeks to develop.

The classic symptoms of meningitis are fever, headache, and stiff neck. Unfortunately, not everyone with meningitis has all of these symptoms. Only approximately 45% of people with meningitis have all three of these classic signs. Almost everyone, however, has at least one of the classic symptoms.

  • Classic symptoms
    • Headache occurs in most people with meningitis
    • Stiff neck occurs in a majority of people with meningitis
    • Fever and chills occur in most people with meningitis
    • Vomiting occurs in many of people with meningitis
    • Extreme sensitivity to bright lights (photophobia)
    • Confusion
    • Seizures
    • History of a recent upper respiratory infection (for example, cold, sore throat)
    • Drowsiness
  • Less common symptoms
    • Localized weakness or loss of strength or sensation, especially in the face
    • Joint swelling and pain in one or more joints
    • A new rash that often looks like bruises or tiny red spots
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/11/2017

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