Meningitis Home > Viral Meningitis

Viral meningitis is an illness characterized by inflammation of the tissues that cover the brain and spinal cord. The most common symptoms are fever, severe headache, and stiff neck. At this time, there is no specific treatment for viral meningitis. Usually, symptoms last from 7 to 10 days, and the patient recovers completely. While viral meningitis is serious, it is rarely fatal in people with normal immune systems.

An Introduction to Viral Meningitis

Meningitis is an illness in which there is inflammation of the tissues that cover the brain and spinal cord. Viral ("aseptic") meningitis is the most common type. It is caused when a virus infects the lining of the brain and spinal cord. This infection results in inflammation and swelling.
 
Meningitis can also be caused by infections with several types of bacteria or fungi. In the United States, there are between 25,000 and 50,000 hospitalizations due to viral meningitis each year.
 

Symptoms of Viral Meningitis

The more common symptoms of viral meningitis are:
 
  • Fever
  • Severe headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Bright lights hurting the eyes
  • Drowsiness or confusion
  • Nausea and vomiting.
     
The symptoms of viral meningitis may not be the same for every person.
 
In babies, the viral meningitis symptoms are more difficult to identify. They may include fever, fretfulness or irritability, difficulty awakening, or poor feeding.
 

Is Viral Meningitis Serious?

Viral meningitis is serious, but rarely fatal in people with normal immune systems. Usually, viral meningitis symptoms last from 7 to 10 days, and the patient recovers completely.
 
Bacterial meningitis, on the other hand, can be very serious and result in disability or death if not treated promptly. Often, the symptoms of viral meningitis and bacterial meningitis are the same.
 
If you think you or your child has meningitis, see your doctor as soon as possible.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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