Each year in the United States, between 25,000 and 50,000 people are hospitalized because of viral meningitis, according to eMedTV. Meningitis is a neurological condition in which the membranes, called meninges, which cover the brain and spinal cord become inflamed. When a person has viral meningitis, the cause of the membrane inflammation is a viral infection. Of the different types of meningitis — bacterial, fungal and others — viral meningitis is the most common, noted the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Several different viruses can cause viral meningitis. The MayoClinic.com stated that 30 percent of viral meningitis cases in the United States are caused by enteroviruses. Examples of enteroviruses include echoviruses and coxsacloeviruses. Herpesviruses, such as varicella-zoster virus, Epstein-Barr virus and herpes simplex virus, can also cause viral meningitis. Other viruses that can lead to viral meningitis include mumps, arboviruses and lymphocytic choriomeningitis.
The symptoms of viral meningitis can either start soon after infection or take a few days to appear. Infants with viral meningitis may be hard to awaken; other common symptoms include irritability, fever and poor eating. In older children and adults, symptoms can include a lack of appetite, high fever, nausea, vomiting and a severe headache. Patients may have sensitivity to bright light and a stiff neck. Other viral meningitis symptoms include drowsiness, confusion and trouble waking up.
To diagnose viral meningitis, a doctor will do a spinal tap — a test in which a sample of the patient’s spinal fluid is drawn and run in a laboratory to detect the presence of a virus. There is not a specific treatment for this type of meningitis, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that most people recover without any interventions within two weeks.
Taking certain precautions and help reduce a person’s risk of getting viral meningitis.