Definition of Meningitis, viral

Meningitis, viral: Inflammation of the meninges (the tissues that cover the brain and spinal cord) caused by a virus, usually one of the enteroviruses such as the mumps virus or Coxsackievirus. Viral meningitis can be a complication the common childhood diseases, including chickenpox.

Symptoms include fever, severe headache, stiff neck, bright lights hurt the eyes, drowsiness, confusion, and nausea and vomiting. In babies, the symptoms are more difficult to identify. They may include irritability, difficulty in awakening the baby, or poor feeding.

Viral meningitis is usually diagnosed by examination of a sample of spinal fluid obtained with a lumbar puncture (spinal tap).

Viral meningitis is serious but rarely fatal in persons with a normal immune system. Symptoms tend to last from 7 to 10 days. Most patients recover completely. Treatment, if warranted, is by antiviral drugs.

Since the viruses that cause viral meningitis are contagious, viral meningitis can often be prevented by improved hygiene. Viral meningitis is also called aseptic meningitis.


Last Editorial Review: 8/28/2013

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