Unlike viral meningitis, bacterial meningitis can be lethal or can leave very scarring after-effects (such as hearing loss).
There are 3 different types of bacteria that can result in meningitis. It can be extremely useful to know which type has infected, because then the appropriate antibiotic can be administered. Beginning treatment early and using the correct antibiotic decreases the possibility of death from bacterial meningitis to around 15%.
There are vaccines for meningitis.
Center for Division of Bacterial and Mycotic Disease. Meningococcal Disease. Retrieved May 5, 2005, from http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/meningococcal_g.htm