Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and the spiral chord, which are collectively called meninges. These membranes are filled with blood vessels and protect the brain and the spinal cord. Viral meningitis means that it is caused by a virus.
Viral meningitis occurs when any virus affects and infects the brain. The term usually refers to mild meningitis that has no other symptoms and causes no other diseases. Viral meningitis is relatively common and relatively mild.
Anyone can get viral meningitis but most people of 40 years of age are immune to it. Children are more prone to it, especially during summer and early autumn. The virus that causes meningitis is spread through direct contact with feces and nose or mouth secretions. It is common in places where running water and clean facilities are in short supply. It spreads quickly among young children in large groups, for example in kindergartens and schools.
The usual cause of viral meningitis are enterviruses. These viruses affect only humans and not animals, they inhabit human intestines and are spread by fecal-oral route. In the United States, the viruses that are most commonly responsible for meningitis are echovirus and coxsackie. Other types of viruses that can cause meningitis are herpes simplex type 2, varicella zoster, mumps, HIV, and LCMV.
Symptoms of viral meningitis
Viral meningitis usually starts suddenly, although in babies its progress is more gradual than in older children and adults. Babies may refuse to eat, be agitated, sleepy and fussy. In babies younger than 18 months symptoms can include tender back and extreme fussiness.
In some viral infections, meningitis may include rash, which usually contains of bright red and flat spots all over the body. The rash is different from meningococcal meningitis, where the body is covered with tiny pinpoint spots.
Viral meningitis may also cause sore throat and conjunctivitis.
During the recovery from meningitis, children may exhibit symptoms like tiredness, weakness, fatigue, headache, muscle spasm, insomnia, problems with concentration and behavioral problems.
Diagnosis and treatment for viral meningitis
In order to diagnose viral meningitis, doctors will examine clinical history and perform a physical exam. A stiff neck and pain while Flexing it are usually the sign of viral meningitis. A spinal tap can be done to examine the spinal fluid for presence of the virus. Spinal tap is a procedure in which a sample of spinal fluid is collected using a small needle.
Since this disease is cause by a virus, there is no specific treatment for it. The body will start producing antibodies who will fight the virus and cure the illness. However, until it is determined with certainty that the inflammation is caused by a virus and not by the bacteria, the patient will have to stay in hospital and take antibiotics. After the diagnose, he or she will be released home and the antibiotics will be discontinued.
During the recovery period, acetaminophen can be given for the fever, and the diet should be balanced and bland. The patient should stay in a dark and quiet room.