Meningitis and septicaemia are usually caused by microbes like bacteria or viruses. Sometimes they are due to fungal infections, although almost any microbe can cause them.
Probably the most common form of the disease, viral meningitis, can be very unpleasant but it is almost never life-threatening. Most people quickly make a full recovery from viral meningitis. Viruses rarely cause septicaemia.
But the most common life-threatening form of meningitis and septicaemia is bacterial.
Bacterial meningitis and septicaemia
Bacterial meningitis and septicaemia are more serious and life-threatening than viral meningitis and can be caused by a range of different bacteria.
Different bacteria cause more disease in different parts of the world. Meningococcal bacteria, for example, cause most cases in the UK and Ireland.
Meningococcal meningitis produces severely disabling after effects in about one in twelve survivors. People who have severe meningococcal septicaemia tend to have a worse outcome.
Pneumococcal meningitis is even more likely to produce serious damage.
Neonatal meningitis (occurring in the first month of life) also carries a higher risk of after effects than most other forms.
A person recovering from viral meningitis may experience similar problems to someone who has had bacterial meningitis, but will rarely have such severe after effects.
More about the types and causes of meningitis and septicaemia