Viral meningitis: causes, symptoms, treatment, transmission


What is Viral Meningitis?

The meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges, the membrane lining the brain and, if not detected early and properly untreated, serious and can be fatal. Usually it has three factors that cause the disease – viruses, bacteria and fungi -, having the viral type with more frequent cases.

Viral meningitis is the least aggressive among all types of existing meningitis, has a mortality rate much lower than the others and usually has a spontaneous cure. It is more frequent in the hot months and, on average, generates more than 11 thousand cases per year in Brazil alone.

What are the causes of Viral Meningitis?

The family of viruses that most causes meningitis in people is the Enterovirus and, among the component viruses, are:

  • Echo;
  • Coxsackie and poliovirus;
  • Arbovirus;
  • Mumps virus;
  • Herpes simplex virus;
  • Herpes virus type 6;
  • Cytomegalovírus;
  • Epstein-Barr virus;
  • Varicella zoster virus;
  • Measles virus;
  • Rubella virus;
  • Parvovirus virus;
  • Rotavirus;
  • Smallpox virus;
  • Virus do HIV 1;
  • Some viruses that affect respiratory function.

After the virus settles in the infected organism, its incubation time is 3 to 6 days.

Groups of risk

You can get viral meningitis regardless of your age, but there are groups more susceptible to getting it:

  • Children up to 5 years;
  • People who have low immunity due to illness, medications (such as those used in chemotherapy) or recent organ transplants.

What are the symptoms?

Initially, meningitis manifests itself through a high fever and a severe headache . However, these are not the only symptoms of the disease, as it can present itself in different ways when the infected person is an adult or a baby.

Most common symptoms in babies

  • Fever;
  • Irritability;
  • Bad eating habits;
  • Drowsiness or trouble waking up after sleeping;
  • Lethargy (lack of energy).

Most common symptoms in adults

  • Fever;
  • Headache;
  • Neck pain or torticollis;
  • Photosensitivity;
  • Drowsiness or trouble waking up after sleeping;
  • Sickness;
  • Vomiting;
  • Lack of appetite;
  • Lethargy (lack of energy).

In addition to these symptoms, there are rare cases of people who develop Waterhouse-Friederischsen syndrome, a very serious version of viral meningitis.

Read more: What can be pain and swelling in the back of the neck?

The stages of the disease

Viral meningitis can be divided into 4 stages, according to the severity of the symptoms presented and which will depend on the agent causing the infection. Check out what they are.

Infectious syndrome

  • Fever or hypothermia ;
  • Anorexia;
  • Apathy;
  • General symptoms of an infection.

Root irritation syndrome with characteristic meningeal signs

  • Neck stiffness;
  • Signs of Köernig, Brudzinski and Lasègue.

Intracranial hypertension syndrome

  • Headache;
  • Vomiting unrelated to food;
  • Eye fundus with papilla edema.

Encephalitic syndrome

  • Drowsiness or restlessness;
  • Torpor;
  • Delirium;
  • Coma.

Read more: What is Hypothermia and what are the symptoms?

How transmission occurs

A disease that is easily transmitted, meningitis is usually contracted through intense contact with the infected person and the sharing of personal objects. It is important to know that, even if the person has not yet presented the symptoms of the infection, he can already transmit the virus to other individuals.

The main forms of disease transmission are:

  • Sharing glasses, plates and cutlery;
  • Cough, sneeze or saliva;
  • Sharing food or drinks;
  • Close contacts like kiss;
  • Contact with feces of contaminated people.

Prevention forms

During a period of epidemic, it is essential that people prevent themselves from any type of disease. In the case of meningitis, it can be prevented in the following ways:

Personal hygiene

Wash your hands frequently and use alcohol gel afterwards, especially before handling food, after using the bathroom or changing a diaper and after blowing your nose or sneezing.

House cleaning

  • Always keep the bathroom clean and airy;
  • Avoid turning on the air conditioner, as the filters can accumulate viruses;
  • Clean the kitchen and bathroom surfaces with chlorine.

Hygiene two foods

Before cooking, wash all vegetables, fruits and vegetables and then soak them in chlorine.

What is the diagnosis for Viral Meningitis?

The doctor to be visited for suspected meningitis is the neurologist, in the case of an adult patient, and the pediatrician, in the case of a child patient.

Along with the analysis of the already recurring symptoms, the doctor may order blood, urine and feces tests, in addition to the lumbar puncture, which consists of the removal of cerebrospinal fluid for laboratory analysis. It will be through these tests that meningitis will be confirmed, as well as its causative agent.

How to treat the disease

Treatment for viral meningitis lasts between 7 to 10 days and rest is recommended until the fever subsides and the intake of plenty of water, to avoid dehydration.

As there is no specific medication for the viral form of meningitis, the doctor may prescribe some medications to control the symptoms caused by the disease. An example is the use of painkillers and antipyretics , such as Paracetamol , and remedies for nausea / vomiting, such as Metoclopramide .

It is important that the patient makes use of some measures during treatment to prevent the transmission of the disease, such as wearing masks, not sharing food, drinks or personal items and washing hands frequently. In severe cases of viral meningitis, treatment should be carried out at the hospital, where the person will receive drugs and serum via intravenous.

Home treatment

Along with the use of the aforementioned medications, you can make use of the following tips to assist in the treatment of viral meningitis:

  • Make a cold compress on the forehead or bathe with warm water to help the fever to subside;
  • Make a warm compress on the back of the neck to relieve the stiff neck;
  • Drink ash tea, as the plant has antipyretic action;
  • Drink lavender tea, as the plant has analgesic and relaxing properties;
  • Drink ginger tea, as it aids digestion, reducing nausea and vomiting.


NEVER self-medicate or stop using a medication without first consulting a doctor. Only he will be able to tell which medication, dosage and duration of treatment is the most suitable for his specific case. The information contained on this site is only intended to inform, not in any way intended to replace the guidance of a specialist or serve as a recommendation for any type of treatment. Always follow the instructions on the package insert and, if symptoms persist, seek medical or pharmaceutical advice.

Are there any complications after Viral Meningitis treated?

Sequelae caused by viral meningitis are rare, but when they do, it is due to the delay in treatment or the fact that the patient has not been treated correctly.

Possible sequelae include:

  • Memory loss;
  • Decreased ability to concentrate;
  • Neurological problems

Because of all that we put here, the importance of spreading information about viral meningitis is great. So if you know someone who has the initial symptoms of the disease, share this article with them. Every form of knowledge is valid!