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NOTE: A surveillance case definition is a set of uniform criteria used to define a disease for public health surveillance. Surveillance case definitions enable public health officials to classify and count cases consistently across reporting jurisdictions. Surveillance case definitions are not intended to be used by healthcare providers for making a clinical diagnosis or determining how to meet an individual patient’s health needs.

Clinical Description

Bacterial meningitis manifests most commonly with fever, headache, and a stiff neck; the disease may progress rapidly to shock and death. However, other manifestations may be observed.

Laboratory Criteria For Diagnosis

Isolation of a bacterial species from the cerebrospinal fluid

Case Classification


A clinically compatible case that is either laboratory confirmed or is accompanied by a positive blood culture


Cases of bacterial meningitis caused by Haemophilus influenzae, Neisseria meningitidis, group A Streptococcus, and Listeria monocytogenes should be reported to CDC's National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System under the disease codes specific for these organisms. Only cases of bacterial meningitis caused by organisms other than those specified should be reported as cases of "meningitis, other bacterial."