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.
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:
Conditions that weaken the immune system, such as
Treatments that weaken the immune system
Crowded, unsanitary conditions
Season—summer and early fall in areas with mild climates
Symptoms of viral meningitis include:
Stiff or sore neck
Sensitivity to bright lights
Symptoms in newborns and infants include:
Fever—especially unexplained high fever
Feeding poorly or refusing to eat
Tautness or bulging of soft spots between skull bones
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:
Viral meningitis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/meningitis/viral.html. 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
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