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Viral Meningitis

What is viral meningitis?

Viral meningitis cases are typically caused by enteroviruses, primarily during the summer months. Several other viruses that can lead to meningitis are the mumps virus, herpes viruses including Epstein-Barr virus, herpes simplex viruses, varicella-zoster virus (the cause of chicken pox and shingles), the measles virus, the influenza virus, and viruses that spread through mosquitos and other insects.

What are the signs and symptoms?

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Lethargy (a lack of energy)
  • Lack of appetite
  • Sleepiness or trouble waking up

How is viral meningitis spread?

Viral meningitis spreads by fecal contamination, most commonly by using the toilet and not properly washing hands afterward. Viral meningitis may also be spread through the saliva, sputum, or nasal mucus of an infected person.

How do you prevent viral meningitis?

There are no vaccines to help prevent viral meningitis. Here are some tips on how to prevent infection:

  • Wash your hands after using the toilet, coughing, or blowing your nose.
  • Clean and disinfect commonly used surfaces such as doorknobs, phones, and remote controls.
  • Do not kiss, share drinking glasses, cosmetics, eating utensils, or other personal items with people who are sick. Avoid these activities if you are sick yourself.

How do you diagnose and treat viral meningitis?

If meningitis is suspected, samples of blood or cerebrospinal fluid are collected and sent to the laboratory for testing. It is important to know the specific cause of meningitis because the severity of illness and the treatment will differ depending on the cause. Viral meningitis does not have any specific treatment. Antibiotics do not work on viruses. Hospitalization may be required for severe cases, but most patients heal on their own within 7-10 days.