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Viral meningitis - The facts

There are thousands of viral meningitis cases each year. Most concern babies and toddlers, although adults also contract the disease. The majority of suffers make a full recovery, but 10% of cases result in death. Some are left with after-effects which range from a loss of hearing to brain damage.

What is meningitis?

Meningitis is an infection that causes an inflammation to layers of tissue that surround the brain and spinal cord. It can be caused by bacteria or transmitted as a virus, and can lead to nerve and brain damage.

Meningitis symptoms

The symptoms include severe headaches, vomiting, and a fever. Sensitivity to light and a stiff neck are also common manifestations of the disease and a distinctive skin rash may also develop. Diarrhoea, muscle and joint pain, and general flu-like symptoms can be expected with viral meningitis.

Viral meningitis

This type of meningitis is less common than bacterial meningitis and is also less serious. As symptoms are mild and in keeping with the flu, it’s difficult to accurately estimate the number of suffers. It’s most common in children and occurs most often during the summer time.

Treatment

With painkillers, plenty of fluids, and lots of rest, viral meningitis sufferers normally recover without the need for hospital treatment. If your symptoms are severe, your doctor may admit you to hospital for a course of antibiotics.

After-effects

Memory loss, tiredness, depression, or emotional problems can occur in many survivors. Some of these after-effects go away after a short while, but others stay for a lifetime.

Final word

Unlike bacterial meningitis, viral meningitis doesn’t normally lead to blood poisoning (septicaemia). It’s a milder form of the disease, so is normally easier to recover from, but there can be complications if it’s contracted by infants or the elderly. Vaccinations can prevent many cases of viral meningitis. If you would like more information on the vaccines available for meningitis, go to nhs.uk or consult your GP.

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