What is viral (aseptic) meningitis?
Viral or aseptic meningitis is an illness in which there is redness and swelling of the tissues that cover the brain and spinal cord.
What causes viral meningitis?
Many different viruses can cause meningitis. About 90% of cases of viral meningitis are caused by members of a group of viruses known as enteroviruses. Herpesviruses and the mumps virus can also cause viral meningitis.
How are these viruses spread?
Enterovirus, the most common cause of viral meningitis, are most often spread through direct contact with saliva, sputum, or nasal mucus. This usually happens by shaking hands with an infected person or touching something they have handled, and then rubbing your own nose, mouth, or eyes. The virus can also be found in the stools of persons who are infected. The virus is spread through this route mainly among small children who are not yet toilet trained. It can also be spread this way to adults changing the diapers of an infected infant.
Who gets viral meningitis?
Anyone can get viral meningitis.
What are the symptoms of viral meningitis?
Symptoms may include fever, severe headache, stiff neck, drowsiness or confusion, nausea, and vomiting. Viral meningitis is serious but rarely fatal in healthy persons.
How soon do symptoms appear?
Symptom generally appear within 3 to 7 days from the time you are infected until you develop symptoms.
What is the treatment for viral meningitis?
No specific treatment for viral meningitis exists at this time. Most patients recover completely on their own. Doctors will often recommend bed rest, plenty of fluids, and medicine to relieve the fever and headache.
How can viral meningitis be prevented?
The most effective method of prevention is to wash your hands thoroughly and often. In settings such as child care centers, washing objects and surfaces with a bleach solution (made by mixing 1 capful of household bleach with 1 gallon water) can be a very effective way to inactivate the virus.
This fact sheet is for informational purposes only. It should not be used for self-diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation with a health care provider. If you think that you may have this infection, or have questions about the disease described above, you should consult your health care provider.
For additional information on this disease, visit the Centers or Disease Control and Prevention website.
To contact the Epidemiology and Emerging Infections Program, please call 860-509-7994.