by Rick Alan
Meningitis is swelling and inflammation of layers that surround the brain and spine. It can lead to a series of symptoms. Viral meningitis is caused by a virus. It is often less serious than bacterial meningitis.
The Spinal Cord and Meninges
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Viral meningitis is caused by a virus. Examples of viruses linked to meningitis include:
Viruses spread from person to person in different ways. Some may be released in air with coughs or sneezes. Others may spread through contact with infected fluids or mosquito bites. Contact with someone who has viral meningitis is not likely to result in meningitis.
Viral meningitis is more common in children under 5 years old. Factors that may increase the chance of an infection include:
Symptoms of viral meningitis include:
Symptoms in newborns and infants include:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. A sample of fluid around the spine and brain will be taken and tested. It will confirm meningitis. Blood, urine, sputum, and spinal fluid may also be tested. It will help to confirm the infection is caused by a virus instead of bacteria.
Images of the brain, spine, and skull may be taken with:
Most viral infections will pass on their own in 7 to 10 days. Treatment will help to ease symptoms. Steps may include:
Once you have a virus there are no steps to prevent meningitis. To reduce your chance of common viral infections:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Meningitis Foundation of America
Public Health Agency of Canada
Enteroviral meningitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/enteroviral-meningitis . Updated July 15, 2019. Accessed September 13, 2019.
Viral meningitis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
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Updated August 6, 2019. Accessed September 13, 2019.
Last reviewed September 2019 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
David Horn, MD
Last Updated: 9/13/2019