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Viral meningitis

Viral meningitis is rarely life threatening but can make people feel very ill

Viral meningitis survivor Tom - Men's Health Week

Viral meningitis is the most common type of the disease, and for some can cause life-changing after-effects

The facts about viral meningitis

  • It is estimated that there are thousands of cases each year in the UK
  • Anyone can get viral meningitis but it is most common in babies and young children
  • Viral meningitis symptoms can be similar to those of bacterial meningitis, so it is essential to seek urgent medical help if concerned
  • Many different viruses can cause meningitis - enteroviruses are the most common
  • Is viral meningitis contagious? It is not generally considered to be contagious; contact with someone who has the illness does not usually increase the risk of disease to others. Linked cases of viral meningitis are extremely unusual and almost all cases occur alone
  • There is no specific treatment for most cases of viral meningitis. Patients need to be hydrated with fluids, given painkillers and allowed to rest in order to recover. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses. However, in some instances, antibiotics may be started on admission to hospital until the cause of meningitis is identified. Antibiotics are usually discontinued once viral meningitis is diagnosed
  • Although most people will make a full recovery, the recovery process can be slow. Some can be left with life-changing after-effects
  • After-effects can include headaches, exhaustion and memory loss
  • Although there aren’t vaccines to prevent most cases, the MMR vaccine, which is given as part of the UK routine immunisation schedule, protects against measles, mumps and rubella viral infections. Prior to the use of this vaccine, mumps was a common cause of viral meningitis in children

Viral meningitis fact sheet

To find out more, download our free viral meningitis fact sheet

The impact

Many people who experience viral meningitis feel that they are dismissed as having the ‘milder’ form of meningitis. Very little is understood about the recovery and after-effects. In response, we carried out a survey, with over 450 sufferers responding. The results (attached to the viral meningitis fact sheet) show the real impact viral meningitis can have.

Being 'vocal about viral'

The survey findings are helping us raise the profile of this type of meningitis and inform health professionals, schools, employers, family and friends of the potential long-term effects that sufferers can face. Our annual Viral Meningitis Awareness Week aims to keep viral meningitis and its true impact high on the public agenda.

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Call our nurse-led helpline

Call our helpline 0808 80 10 388 or email helpline@meningitisnow.org