Viral meningitis is an infection of the brain and spinal cord. The membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord become inflamed and infected. These membranes are called the meninges.
Viral meningitis is also called aseptic meningitis.
Viral meningitis is the most common type of meningitis. Many different viruses can cause it. Examples are enteroviruses, herpes viruses, and the mumps virus.
You can get viral meningitis from someone who is infected the same way you get other viral infections, like colds. This can happen by:
The symptoms are not the same for everyone. The most common symptoms are:
The early symptoms of viral meningitis are often the same as the symptoms caused by bacterial meningitis. When meningitis is caused by a virus, it is serious but rarely fatal. On the other hand, when meningitis is caused by bacteria, it can cause serious problems. Bacterial meningitis can be fatal if it is not treated right away. If you think you may have meningitis, see your healthcare provider or go to an emergency room right away.
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you. You may have the following tests:
When you have a spinal tap, fluid is drawn from the spinal column with a needle and sent to the lab for tests.
There is no specific treatment for viral meningitis. Most people recover without any treatment other than drinking extra fluids and getting plenty of rest. Your healthcare provider may prescribe medicine to relieve fever and headache. You may need to stay at the hospital so you can be closely observed. The most important part of treatment is proper diagnosis to make sure that the infection is viral and not bacterial.
Usually the symptoms of viral meningitis last 5 to 14 days and you recover completely.
If you are in contact with someone who has any viral infection, including viral meningitis, the most effective method of prevention is to wash your hands thoroughly and often with warm water and soap.