In some instances, viral meningitis can be harmless, but some cases can be quite devastating. It can also be spread from one person to another, so it’s important to know how it is contracted and how to prevent the spread of the virus that causes it. Below are some of the key facts and information that you should know about viral meningitis.
Viral meningitis is the most common type of meningitis, which is an inflammation of the tissue covering the spinal cord and the brain. This form of meningitis is caused by a virus, so doctors are able to diagnose the condition based on a sample of a patient’s spinal fluid. Bacteria grown from this sample helps determine whether a person is suffering from this condition.
Some of the most common symptoms of viral meningitis include fever, a stiff neck and headaches. Most cases of viral meningitis are not serious, but it’s still important to seek out medical attention right away if a person is experiencing these symptoms to rule out bacterial meningitis, which has similar symptoms and can be fatal. Furthermore, it’s important to keep in mind that these symptoms don’t always occur with viral meningitis, especially when an infant has contracted the infection.
A few other symptoms that may occur when a patient is suffering from viral meningitis are:
Although anyone can get viral meningitis, it is most common among two groups of people who are at the highest risk for severe infection:
In addition, anyone who is around or comes in contact with a person with viral meningitis is at a slightly higher risk of contracting the infection, but they are not likely to develop meningitis as a complication of that infection.
Most cases of viral meningitis are caused enteroviruses. In fact, about 90 percent of all cases of viral meningitis are caused by these common intestinal viruses. There are also some cases of this condition that are caused by the mumps virus or the herpes virus. In rare cases (and most often occurring in Wisconsin), a virus carried by mosquitoes causes viral meningitis.
Viral meningitis is contagious. The enteroviruses that cause most cases of the condition are contagious, but most people who are exposed to them experience little to no symptoms. Therefore, even those who come in contact with someone with viral meningitis are not likely to develop symptoms.
Enteroviruses, which cause most cases of viral meningitis, are spread by direct or indirect contact with fecal material. In some instances, contact with saliva, nasal mucus or sputum may lead to the spread of these viruses. Patients who are diagnosed with viral meningitis are instructed to be vigilant about their hygiene. That includes washing their hands thoroughly after using the bathroom or blowing their nose and covering up coughs and sneezes. Those with viral meningitis should also avoid activities or situations where the virus could be spread, such as kissing and sharing utensils, lip balm or cigarettes.
Young children get viral meningitis more than any other group. This is largely related to the fact that they are not potty-trained and are having multiple diaper changes per day.
There is no defined treatment for viral meningitis because it usually goes away on its own in a matter of days. Since the condition is caused by a virus, antibiotics are not helpful. In rare cases, a hospital stay may be recommended or required, but in most instances, a doctor will suggest certain medications to help relieve symptoms like fever and headache. Bed rest and fluids are also recommended for most patients.
The symptoms of viral meningitis usually appear 3 to 7 days after the individual is exposed to the virus. In most cases, viral meningitis is able to clear up on its own and a patient will recover completely 7 to 10 days after the symptoms first appear.
Viral meningitis is rarely fatal. Even the most serious cases usually last for only 3 to 4 months. Individuals with a severely weakened immune system should be especially careful about avoiding this infection since it could cause more serious complications for them.
Because viral meningitis can be spread and is common in children, it’s important for parents to be careful about hygiene when it comes to all members of their family. Fortunately, most cases of viral meningitis are not serious and go away on their own over time.
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