Facebook Pixel

What is Viral Meningitis?

Rate This

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. For example, good hygiene, such as regular hand washing, covering your mouth when coughing, cleaning contaminated surfaces, and avoiding sharing glasses or eating utensils with someone who is ill, can help minimize the spread of a virus. Arboviruses are spread by mosquitos, so avoiding mosquito bites can reduce the risk of viral meningitis.


MayoClinic.com. Meningitis. Web. 7 November 2011.

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Meningitis and Encephalitis Fact Sheet. Web. 7 November 2011.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meningitis: Questions and Answers. Web. 7 November 2011.

eMedTV. Viral Meningitis. Web. 7 November 2011

Reviewed November 8, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a CommentComments

There are no comments yet. Be the first one and get the conversation started!

Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


Get Email Updates

Health Newsletter

Receive the latest and greatest in women's health and wellness from EmpowHER - for free!