Viral meningitis

Viral meningitis is an inflammation of the serous membranes of the brain and less often of the spinal cord, caused by an infection of viral origin. Among the different types of meningitis, the viral one proceeds relatively favorably.

Children are more often affected and older people less often. Single cases of the disease are usually registered, but epidemic outbreaks are also possible.

Infection takes place through the air, i.e. more air-droplet route and through contaminated food products and water, i.e. fecal-oral route.

What are the causes?

The disease can develop primarily on its own, or secondarily as a complication of a past infection.
The most common etiological factor for viral meningitis is enterovirus infection, primarily affecting the mucous membranes of the small and large intestine.

Coxsackie viruses and Epstein-Barr virus can also be causative agents. Very rarely, meningitis can be caused by the herpes virus, mumps, cytomegalovirus, adenovirus and a number of other viral infections.

The disease develops more often in the summer months, which is related to the seasonality of enterovirus infections.

What are the symptoms?

Viral meningitis manifests itself after a 2-10 day incubation period.

Its clinical manifestations are diverse:

• Usually, the onset of the disease is acute – the body temperature rises to about 40 degrees Celsius.

• A headache develops, the patients feel nauseous and vomit repeatedly;

• Pronounced general weakness is accompanied by drowsiness, sometimes patients are stunned. In more severe cases, confusion is observed and sometimes loss of consciousness is reached.

• It is also possible to develop myalgia – pain in the muscles of the body;

• Often the disease is accompanied by digestive disorders similar to those of gastroenteritis – abdominal cramps, rare stools. Appetite absent. The skin on the face and neck is red and hot to palpation. The eyes also turn red.

• Upon examination of the oral cavity, reddening of the walls of the pharynx, the vaults of the palate, the mucous membrane of the soft palate and the tonsils is found.

• In the presence of a feeling that the occipital, cervical and submandibular lymph nodes may be enlarged, the most common cause of viral meningitis is the epidemic mumps virus.

• Meningeal symptoms /signs that allow a diagnosis of meningitis/ are manifested by pain in the neck and throughout the spine, stiffness of the neck muscles, resulting in the inability to bend the head forward.

Kernig’s symptoms – inability to extend the legs at the knees and Brudzinski’s symptoms also often develop. After about a week, the meningeal symptoms regress and the body temperature normalizes.

However, the feeling of fatigue and headache subside within 2 weeks.

• In small children, especially in newborns, meningitis can be combined with inflammation of the heart muscle, i.e. myocarditis.

• Catarrhal manifestations also often occur – rhinitis, pharyngitis and laryngitis.

Treatment of viral meningitis

Serous meningitis, that is, inflammation of the membranes, in this case due to viruses, is not dangerous for adults.

Hospitalization is subject to children, pregnant women, the elderly and patients with immunodeficiency, i.e. in those groups of people in whom the disease can proceed with serious complications and even lead to a fatal outcome.

Immunoglobulins are administered internally to strengthen immunity in more severe cases.

Etiotropic treatment of viral meningitis is, above all, aimed at controlling the symptoms, since specific antiviral preparations have not yet been developed.

However, if the disease is caused by adeno- or enteroviruses, preparations derived from ribavirin are prescribed internally.

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