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Rare Forms of Meningitis More Deadly Than Viral Meningitis

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AHRQ News and Numbers

Release date: July 30, 2008

Hospital patients with rare types of meningitis, including fungal and parasitic meningitis, are 15 times more likely to die than patients hospitalized with viral meningitis, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

Among hospitalizations in 2006, according to AHRQ's new analysis, the death rate for fungal and other rare types of meningitis was approximately 9 percent (about 500 deaths among 5,300 stays) compared to 8 percent for patients with bacterial meningitis (nearly 1,300 deaths among 15,700 stays), and a death rate of 0.6 percent (about 200 deaths among 39,300 stays) for viral meningitis—the most common form.

Meningitis is a rare but serious condition that mainly attacks younger people, or those whose immune systems are weakened from AIDS or other causes. By inflaming the tissue surrounding the spinal cord and brain, the infection can cause epilepsy, brain swelling or bleeding, cerebral palsy, stroke, and in severe cases death. Symptoms include fever, lethargy, severe headache, neck stiffness, inability to tolerate bright light or loud noises, skin rashes, and seizures. Infants may have other symptoms, including jaundice.

AHRQ also found that in 2006:

  • About 72,000 hospitalized Americans had meningitis. It cost hospitals $1.2 billion to treat the patients.
  • Patients from poor communities were more likely to be hospitalized for meningitis than people from wealthy communities. For example, nearly half of fungal or other rare types of meningitis hospitalizations were for patients from the poorest communities.
  • Patients with fungal or other rare types of meningitis tended to be older (43 average age) than those with bacterial meningitis (38 average age) or viral meningitis (30 average age).

This AHRQ News and Numbers is based on data from 2006 (HCUP Statistical Brief #57: Meningitis-Related Hospitalizations in the United States, 2006). The report uses statistics from the 2006 Nationwide Inpatient Sample, a database of hospital inpatient stays that is nationally representative of inpatient stays in all short-term, non-Federal hospitals. The data are drawn from hospitals that comprise 90 percent of all discharges in the United States and include all patients, regardless of insurance type, as well as the uninsured.

For other information, or to speak with an AHRQ data expert, please contact (301) 427-1539.

Current as of July 2008


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