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
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 Week aims to keep viral meningitis and its true impact high on the public agenda.