Viral Meningitis

Viral meningitis also called aseptic meningitis is a relatively common infection of the meningeal lining of the central nervous system, caused by a variety of viruses. The viruses commonly responsible for meningitis are Echovirus, Coxsackie virus, Arboviruses (St Louis encephalitis, Eastern Equine encephalitis, and Western Equine encephalitis), Herpes simplex virus, Varicella virus, Adenovirus, and Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus

It is characterized most often by headache, fever, nausea, vomiting and resolves by itself.

In tropical countries it is seen year around. Outside of tropical countries the illness is commonly seen in summer and early fall.

Where does it occur?

It occurs worldwide.

How is it transmitted?

It is acquired by different methods depending on the virus.

Enterovirus: fecal-oral contamination

Coxsackie: contact with nasal, throat or fecal material of infected people

Arbovirus: mosquito bites

Herpes simplex: sexually transmitted

Adenovirus: oral secretions

LCV: contact with nasal, respiratory, or food infected by people

Is it contagious from person to person?

It can be contagious from person to person.

What is the risk for travelers?

The risk is low for travelers.

How soon after exposure will one develop symptoms?

Echovirus: 3-5 days

Coxsackie: 3-5 days

Arbovirus: 1-2 months

Herpes simplex: 1- 2 months

Adenovirus: 1-2 weeks

LCV: 1-2 weeks

What are the signs and symptoms?

Symptoms start with fever and headache, pain behind the eyes, and discomfort with looking at bright lights. There may be associated body aches, muscle pains, nausea, vomiting, lethargy, confusions, seizures etc. Occasionally a fine red rash is also seen on the body.

Is there any treatment?

Treatment is supportive with fluid, pain medications and rest.

Are there any lab tests to diagnose illness?

Spinal fluid analysis shows elevation in white cell counts with a predominance of lymphocytes. Specific viral antibody and PCR tests are available.

What preventive measures can be taken?

Maintain sanitary conditions to prevent fecal oral transmission, washing hands frequently and taking insect safety measures are most helpful in prevention.

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