Meningitis is an infection of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Fungal meningitis is caused by a number of different types of fungi, some of which are found outdoors and even in some indoor environments.
Fungal meningitis gained national attention in 2012 when a multi-state outbreak occurred that is believed to be the result of contaminated steroid injections. Hundreds of cases resulted along with dozens of fatalities.
Fungal meningitis is not transmitted from person to person. It can develop after a fungus spreads through the bloodstream from somewhere else in the body, as a result of the fungus being introduced directly into the central nervous system, or from a body site infection next to the central nervous system.
Signs and symptoms of fungal meningitis may include the following:
• Stiff neck
• Nausea and vomiting
• Sensitivity to light &
• Altered mental status
Certain diseases, medications and surgical procedures may weaken one's immune system and increase the risk of getting a fungal infection, which can lead to fungal meningitis. Living in certain areas of the United States may also increase a person's risk for fungal lung infections, which can also spread to the brain. For example, bird and bat droppings may contain Histoplasma or Cryptococcus and soil in the Southwestern United States may contain Coccidioides.
Even people living and working in contaminated indoor environments may be exposing themselves to types of fungi, such as Aspergillus fumigatus, that have been associated with fungal meningitis.