Viral meningitis information

What are the symptoms?
The symptoms may not be the same for every person. The more common symptoms are fever, severe headache, stiff neck, sensitivity to bright lights, drowsiness or confusion and nausea or vomiting.

Is viral meningitis a serious disease?
Viral meningitis is serious but rarely fatal in persons with normal immune systems. Usually, the symptoms last from seven to 10 days and the person recovers completely. Often the symptoms of viral meningitis and bacterial meningitis are the same. For that reason, if a student has these symptoms, he/she should go to Walker Health Center or other health care provider for assessment and treatment.

How is viral meningitis treated?
No specific treatment for viral meningitis exists at this time. Most patients recover completely on their own, and doctors often will recommend bed rest, plenty of fluids and medicine to relieve fever and headache.

Is viral meningitis contagious?
The viruses that cause viral meningitis are contagious. However, most people exposed to the viruses causing meningitis will not develop the disease. They may have no symptoms or develop only a cold or rash with low-grade fever. Typically, less than 1 out of 1,000 persons infected actually develop meningitis. Therefore, if you are around someone who has viral meningitis, you have a moderate chance of becoming infected but a very small chance of developing meningitis.

How is the virus spread?
Enteroviruses, the most common cause of viral meningitis, are most often spread through direct contact with respiratory secretions such as 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 incubation period is usually between three and seven days from the time you are infected until you develop symptoms. You can usually spread the virus to someone else beginning about three days after you are infected until about 10 days after you develop symptoms.

How can I reduce my chances of becoming infected?
Because most persons who are infected with enteroviruses do not become sick, it can be difficult to prevent the spread of the virus. If you are in contact with someone who has viral meningitis, however, the most effective method of prevention is to wash your hands thoroughly and often.

Information taken from 
American College Health Association
Center for Disease Control