Meningitis is an inflammation of the linings of the brain and spinal cord caused by either viruses or bacteria. Viral meningitis is more common than bacterial meningitis and usually occurs in late spring and summer. Signs and symptoms of viral meningitis may include stiff neck, headache, nausea, vomiting, and rash. Most cases of viral meningitis run a short, uneventful course. Bacterial meningitis occurs rarely and sporadically throughout the year, although outbreaks tend to occur in late winter and early spring. Because meningococcal meningitis can cause grave illness and rapidly progress to death, it requires early diagnosis and treatment. Untreated meningococcal disease can be fatal. With early diagnosis and treatment, however, the likelihood of recovery is increased. Early recognition, performance of a spinal tap, and a prompt initiation of antimicrobial therapy are crucial.