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Viral meningitis is an infection usually affecting children under 5 years of age.
The virus causing the infection usually infects the meninges, which are the protective tissue coverings of the brain and spinal cord.
The meninges is made up of 3 distinct layers :
1. The Pia mater – which is the layer directly in contact with
the brain and spinal cord.
2. Arachnoid mater – which consists of spider web-like
3. The Dura mater – which is the outermost and toughest
layer of the meninges.
Cerebrospinal fluid or CSF,which also protects the brain and spinal cord,flows between the meninges and the surface of the brain.
The most common causes of viral meningitis are :
1. The Mumps virus
2. The Measles virus
4. The Herpes virus
5. Japanese Encephalitis virus
The most common mechanism of transmission include :
1. Sneezing or Coughing
2. Faecal contamination
3. Bite from an infected insect (such as a mosquito)
After entering the body, the virus makes multiple copies of itself,and enters the bloodstream, eventually reaching the brain. Here, it crosses the blood brain barrier,to enter the CSF, ultimatley infecting the cells of the meninges.This causes an inflammation of the meninges,because of the body’s attempts to fight the infection.
Symptoms of viral meningitis in an infant or young child include :
3. Loss of appetite
4. Decreased consciousness
Symptoms of viral meningitis in an older child or adult
3. Neck stiffness
5. Decreased consciousness
6. Nausea or vomitting
In general,the symptoms of viral meningitis are less severe than what’s seen with bacterial meningitis.
Treatment for viral meningitis include :
1. Use of Acetaminophen/NSAIDs (for the fever & headache).
2. Acyclovir (if the meningitis is caused by the Herpes virus)
Besides supportive therapy, there is no specific
treatment for viral meningitis, which usually runs it
course within 2 weeks, if there are no complications.