Informational Website on Viral Meningitis

Viral meningitis, also known as aseptic meningitis is an infection of the brain covering and spinal cord caused by a virus.

Viral meningitis cases may happen at any time of the year but ViralMenigitis occurs more frequently in the late summer or early fall.

Viral meningitis can be caused by different viruses and is usually not as serious as bacterial meningitis.

Viral meningitis is fairly easily curable and treatable if caught early and well diagnosed by your doctor.

Meningitis is an infection of the fluid of a person's spinal cord and the fluid that surrounds the brain. People sometimes refer to it as spinal meningitis.

Is it Viral Meningitis or Bacterial Meningitis?

Spinal meningitis is typically caused by a viral infection or bacterial infection. Knowing whether spinal meningitis is caused by a virus or bacteria can be quite important since its severity and treatment options differ. Viral meningitis is generally less severe and resolves without specific treatment, while bacterial meningitis can be quite severe and may result in brain damage, hearing loss, or learning disability. It also is important to know which type of bacteria is causing the meningitis because antibiotics can prevent some types from spreading and infecting other people. For more viral-meningitis medical information please go to this government health web site.

FAQ's about Viral and Aseptic Meningitis Conditions

Is viral meningitis a serious disease?

Viral Meningitis and Aseptic Meningitis are serious but fortunately rarely fatal in persons with normal immune systems. Usually, the meningitis symptoms last from 7 to 11 days and patients recover completely. Bacterial meningitis, on the other hand, can be significantly more serious and result in disability or even death if not treated well and promptly.

Importance of getting the right diagnosis of meningitis type?

Quite often, the meningitis disease symptoms of viral meningitis vs bacterial meningitis are the same, or nearly identical. For this reason, if you think you or your child has meningitis, see your doctor as soon as possible to get the important right diagnosis, which condition can be critically significant, especially if bacterial meningitis is the diagnosis!

Who gets viral meningitis?

Anyone can get viral meningitis but it occurs most often in young children and kids.

What are the causes of viral meningitis?

Many different viruses can cause meningitis. About 90% of cases of viral meningitis are caused by members of a group of viruses known as enteroviruses and echo viruses. These viruses are more common during summer and fall months. Herpes viruses and the mumps virus can also cause viral meningitis. Click now for Health Tip of the Day.

How is viral meningitis medically diagnosed?

Viral meningitis is usually diagnosed by laboratory tests of spinal fluid obtained with a spinal tap. The specific cause of viral meningitis can be determined by tests that identify the virus in specimens collected from the patient, but these tests are rarely done.

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How is viral meningitis treated?

No specific treatment for viral meningitis exists at this time. Most patients completely recover on their own. Doctors often will recommend bed rest, plenty of fluids, and medicine to relieve fever and headache.

How is the virus spread?

Enteroviruses, the most common cause of viral meningitis, are most often spread through direct contact with respiratory secretions (e.g., saliva, sputum, or nasal mucus) of an infected person. This usually happens by shaking hands with an infected person or touching something they have handled, and then rubbing your own nose or mouth. The virus can also be found in the stool of persons who are infected. The virus is spread through this route mainly among small children who are not yet toilet trained. It can also be spread this way to adults changing the diapers of an infected infant. The incubation period for enteroviruses is usually between 3 and 7 days from the time you are infected until you develop symptoms. You can usually spread the virus to someone else beginning about 3 days after you are infected until about 10 days after you develop symptoms.

Can I get viral meningitis if I’m around someone who has it?

The viruses that cause viral meningitis are contagious. Enteroviruses, for example, are very common during the summer and early fall, and many people are exposed to them. However, most infected persons either have no symptoms or develop only a cold or rash with low-grade fever. Only a small proportion of infected persons actually develop meningitis. Therefore, if you are around someone who has viral meningitis, you have a moderate chance of becoming infected, but a very small chance of developing meningitis.

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How can I reduce my chances of becoming infected?

Because most persons who are infected with enteroviruses do not become sick, it can be difficult to prevent the spread of the virus. However, adhering to good personal hygiene can help to reduce your chances of becoming infected. If you are in contact with someone who has viral meningitis, the most effective method of prevention is to wash your hands thoroughly and often. Also, cleaning contaminated surfaces and soiled articles first with soap and water, and then disinfecting them with a dilute solution of chlorine-containing bleach (made by mixing approximately ¼ cup of bleach with 1 gallon of water) can be a very effective way to inactivate the virus, especially in institutional settings such as child care centers. (See more about cleaning and disinfecting in general in CDC's Prevention Resources).

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What are the symptoms?

The symptoms may include fever, headache, stiff neck and fatigue. Rash, sore throat and intestinal symptoms may also occur.

How soon do symptoms appear?

Symptoms generally appear within 1-week of exposure.

Is a person with viral meningitis contagious?

Some of the enteroviruses that cause viral meningitis are contagious while others, such as mosquito-borne viruses, cannot be spread from person to person. Fortunately, most people exposed to these viruses experience mild or no symptoms. Most people are exposed to these viruses at some time in their lives, but few actually develop meningitis.

Should a person with a viral meningitis be isolated?

Strict isolation is not necessary for a person with viral meningitis. Since most cases of spinal meningitis and viral meningitis are due to viruses that may be passed in the stool, people diagnosed should be instructed to wash their hands after using the bathroom.

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