Symptoms include a stiff neck, fever and headache.
Bacterial meningitis can be deadly.
But if it is viral, treatment is simple.
To be safe, many doctors start children on antibiotics while they wait for a bacterial culture.
The problem is the culture takes two to three days, and intravenous antibiotics don't help viral meningitis.
Researchers in Boston studied about 3,000 cases of meningitis in children.
They found that an algorithm, or a set of information, helps predict which cases are bacterial, and which ones are not. Dr. Lise Nigrovic of Boston Children’s Hospital explains, "The absence of a seizure as well as defined blood and spinal fluid tests identified a low-risk group for bacterial meningitis. And in that group, the risk of bacterial meningitis was one in a thousand."
These new tests are 99.9% accurate.