17 Difference Between Meningitis and Encephalitis with Table

What is the difference between meningitis and encephalitis?

Both meningitis and encephalitis are medical conditions that affect the nervous system. Meningitis is caused by bacterial and viral infection whereas encephalitis is caused by a viral infection and other acute diseases.

The main difference between meningitis and encephalitis is that the former causes inflammation on the thin membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord whereas the latter causes inflammation on the brain parenchyma.

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Difference Between Meningitis and Encephalitis

Comparison Table (Meningitis vs Encephalitis)

Basic Terms Meningitis Encephalitis
Meaning It is a medical condition that causes inflammation that surrounds the brain and spinal cord It is a medical condition that causes inflammation of the brain parenchyma
Causative Agents Bacteria, Viruses, and Fungi Viruses
Microbes Involved Echovirus, poliovirus, and coxsackie ·         Meningococci

·         Pneumococci

·         Leptospirosis

·         Cytomegalovirus

Other Causes ·         Response to a brain tumor

·         Reaction after a chemotherapy

·         Poisoning with lead

·         Parasites and fungal infections

·         Complicated brain tumors

·         Sarcoidosis

·         Leukemia

·         Multiple sclerosis

·         Lead poisoning

Incubation Period Few hours to a couple of days Between 3 and 5 days
Signs and Symptoms ·         Headache

·         Vomiting

·         Skin rash

·         High fever

·         Stiff neck

·         Confusion

·         Double vision

·         Headache

·         Joint pain

·         Irritability

·         Fever

·         Lethargy

·         Seizures

·         Behavioral changes

Complications ·         Temporary or permanent loss of hearing or vision

·         Irreversible brain damage

·         Hydrocephalus

·         Encephalitis

·         Memory problems

·         Personality and behavioral changes

·         Speech problems

·         Epilepsy

·         Physical and motor difficulties

·         Low mood

·         Fatigue

Rash Present Absent
Altered Mental Status No focal deficits or AMS Altered Mental Status
Forms One form The primary and secondary form
Types ·         Tuberculous meningitis,

·         Aseptic meningitis

·         Syphilitic aseptic meningitis

·         Cryptococcal meningitis

·         Staphylococcal meningitis

·         Gram-negative meningitis

·         Pneumococcal meningitis

·         H.influenza meningitis

·         Meningococcal meningitis

·         Polyoencephalitis

·         Leucoencephalitis

·         Panencephalomyelitis

·         Perivenous encephalomyelitis

Mode of Transmission Nose and mouth droplets of an infected person Skin contact

Migratory birds

Contaminated food

Tick of horses

Mosquitoes and tick bites

Risk Group Age Younger than 5years and older than 60years Younger than 1year and older than 65years
Diagnosis The physical examination followed by CBC with differential, C-reactive protein, and blood for Gram stain and culture. Clinical examination.

Spinal fluid analysis and neuroimaging abnormalities.



CSF Findings The cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is abnormal No findings
Treatments Prescription of Ampicillin alongside aminoglycoside or a cephalosporin Prescription of Acyclovir for ten days in the hospital
Vaccine Exist only on bacterial causes like:

·         Streptococcus pneumoniae

·         Neisseria meningitides

·         Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Exist on certain types of encephalitis like:

·         Tick-borne encephalitis vaccine.

·         Japanese encephalitis vaccine.

What is Meningitis?

It is a medical condition that causes inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. The main types of meningitis are viral and bacterial meningitis.

Viral meningitis is caused by echovirus, poliovirus, and coxsackie. Bacterial meningitis is caused by Streptococcus, Neisseria, Haemophilus, Listeria, and other bacteria.

Meningitis is commonly caused by a response to a brain tumor, the reaction after chemotherapy, poisoning with lead, parasites, and fungal infections.

Signs and symptoms of meningitis are fever, heavy headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, and loss of concentration.

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What Is Encephalitis?

It is an inflammatory disease that affects the brain. The main causative agents are viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi.

Encephalitis is also caused by a complicated brain tumor, leukemia, lead poisoning, multiple sclerosis, and sarcoidosis.

Signs and symptoms of encephalitis are seizures, difficulty in speech, involuntary movement, muddles, severe personality change, palsies, and paralysis.

Difference between Meningitis and Encephalitis

  1. Meningitis is caused by viruses and bacteria while encephalitis is caused by viral inflammation.
  2. Meningitis occurs in one form whereas encephalitis occurs in primary and secondary forms.
  3. Meningitis is diagnosed by routine blood tests while encephalitis is diagnosed by CT scans and MRI
  4. Meningitis causes skin discoloration whereas encephalitis does not cause rashes
  5. Encephalitis altered mental status whereas meningitis has no focal deficit

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In Conclusion

Both meningitis and encephalitis are dangerous and life-threatening diseases. It would be best to maintain proper hygiene like washing of hands to prevent the spread of the bacteria and virus.

Individuals with weak immune systems are advised to avoid coming into contact with an infected person. Both medical conditions have vaccines for patients diagnosed with it. It helps to prevent the conditions from becoming more fatal.

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