Viral meningitis is the most common but the least severe type. Almost all patients recover without any permanent damage, although full recovery can take many weeks.
It is most often spread through respiratory droplets (kissing, coughing, sneezing) or faecal contamination. Elderly people and those with conditions that affect their immune system are more at risk.
Most cases of viral meningitis are caused by enteroviruses (common stomach viruses). However, other viruses can also cause viral meningitis. For instance, West Nile virus, mumps, measles, herpes simplex types I and II, varicella, and lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCM) virus.
Viral meningitis cannot be reliably differentiated from bacterial meningitis, however viral meningitis has no evidence of bacteria present in the cerebrospinal fluid. A lumbar puncture is often needed to identify the disease.
The symptoms are usually the inflammation of the meninges (the membrane covering the brain and spinal cord). Symptoms commonly include headache, fever, sensitivity to light and neck stiffness.
There are no vaccines available for viral meningitis, but washing hands thoroughly and keeping surfaces clean can help prevent the disease.