Viral meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges caused by certain viruses. This form of meningitis is also known as aseptic meningitis. In majority of cases viral meningitis is caused by enterovirus. It can also develop due to Herpes simplex virus type 1 and 2, HIV virus, Varicella zoster, Epstein-Barr virus, Cytomegalovirus, Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus, Poliovirus, Coxackie A virus, St. Louis encephalitis virus, West Nile virus and Mumps.
Virus meningitis is relatively common illness and is not considered a severe infection comparing to bacterial meningitis. The infection in this cases spreads directly from the nose and the throat. Many children are carriers of the virus. They only transmit the virus without developing the infection.
Viral infection is contagious and spreads quickly. It mostly occurs during summer and early autumn.
How Long is Viral Meningitis Contagious?
Once the virus is contracted the person becomes infective after a certain period of time. Namely, the virus is in the system 3-7 days before a person develops obvious symptoms and signs. The infected person becomes contagious once the symptoms become noticeable and continues being infective for approximately 7-10 days.
It is estimated that viral meningitis affects 1 out of a thousand people. It is believed that people over the age of 40 are actually immune to viral meningitis and that the infection occurs more in children. Even though the infection is contagious it can be prevented with proper personal hygiene.
Presentation of Viral Meningitis
Viral Meningitis starts suddenly. Only in babies it may have gradual course when a baby first starts refusing to eat, becomes sleepier and fussier. What follows is the development of rigidity and tenderness of the back and neck and extreme fussiness. In some cases viral meningitis leads to the formation of rash that affects arms or legs. Meningitis caused by enterovirus also causes sore throat and conjunctivitis. Fever and headache are two more characteristics of viral meningitis. The infection subsides within-14 days and only a few patients have a long convalescence.
Diagnosis and Treatment for Viral Meningitis
The doctor may assume a patient is suffering from viral meningitis due to patient's medical history and physical and neurological examination. Definitive conformation of the infection is possible only after a spinal tap. This test includes taking of samples of spinal fluid and its examination.
There is no specific treatment for viral meningitis. The virus is eradicated with the assistance of antibodies produced by the body. Antibiotics are not prescribed in patients suffering from viral meningitis since they have no effects against viruses. Fever is controlled with acetaminophen and a patient may be administered intravenous fluids. The recovery for viral meningitis includes plenty of bed rest in a dark and quiet room. There are several potential complications of viral meningitis but, fortunately, they do not affect many patients.