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Viral Meningitis

By John Smith

What is viral meningitis?

Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges (the thin lining of tissue covering the brain and spinal cord) caused by an infection of the cerebrospinal fluid. Viral meningitis is relatively common, and is usually mild, and though it can occasionally be life-threatening, it should not be confused with the more severe bacterial meningitis. It is occasionally referred to as 'aseptic' meningitis, and can sometimes go undetected because its symptoms can mimic that of the 'flu.

Some specific viruses are known to cause viral meningitis: specifically mosquito-borne viruses, common intestinal viruses (enteroviruses), and sometimes the herpes simplex virus. The method of transmission depends upon the virus responsible, but person-to-person contact and insect transmission are the usual forms. It tends to be more common in children under the age of five, though it does occur in adults.

What are the symptoms of viral meningitis?

  • Headache

  • Sudden Fever and Chills

  • Severe neck stiffness

  • Tiredness

  • Rash

  • Sore throat

  • Vomiting

  • Sensitivity to light (photophobia)

  • Cognitive changes - infants and young children may appear fretful, or overly lethargic and difficult to rouse; adults may appear confused, drowsy or irritable.

Treatment of Viral Meningitis

There is no appropriate treatment for viral meningitis. Antibiotics are of no use against viral infections. Symptoms usually occur within ten days of infection, and resolve within another 7-10 days. During this period, patients are encouraged to keep high standards of personal hygiene, wash their hands frequently, and family members should avoid contact with the patient's bodily fluids.

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