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What are the Causes of Viral Meningitis?

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  • Written By: H. Lo
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 27 August 2016
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Causes of viral meningitis include enteroviruses, herpesvirus and arboviruses. In addition, the mumps are also associated with viral meningitis and, in rare instances, lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) can also cause the illness to occur. Viral meningitis itself is a common, often harmless medical condition in which an infection causes inflammation to occur in the meninges. The condition is also known as aseptic meningitis.

Of the various causes of viral meningitis, enteroviruses are the most common. These intestinal viruses can be easily spread from person to person, although most people who contract these viruses do not develop viral meningitis. Examples of enteroviruses include coxsackieviruses and echoviruses.

Herpesvirus can also cause viral meningitis. Medical conditions related to herpesvirus include chicken pox, measles and influenza. Those with illnesses caused by herpesvirus might be at risk for developing viral meningitis. Examples of herpesvirus include the Epstein-Barr virus and varicella-zoster virus.

Arboviruses are viruses transmitted by insects, such as mosquitoes. Although humans can acquire viral meningitis from insects, it is generally a rare method in which to contract the illness. Examples of arboviruses include alphaviruses and bunyaviruses.

Other causes of viral meningitis include the mumps and LCMV. Just as with the case of herpesvirus and its related illnesses, an infection causing mumps can, on occasion, cause viral meningitis. Similar to how insects transmit arboviruses, LCMV, which rodents spread, is a rare way to acquire the condition.

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Though the causes of viral meningitis, as well as the transmission methods, might vary, the condition often requires no specific treatment other than getting bed rest, drinking fluids, and sometimes taking medication to relieve fever or headache. Often, the illness will last between seven to ten days. Other symptoms an infected person might experience during this time include fatigue, nausea and stiff neck.

Since most cases of viral meningitis occur as a result of enteroviruses, of which many infected people do not develop viral meningitis, it is understandable that there are those who do not exhibit any symptoms of the medical condition. Given that viral meningitis is contagious, though, it is a good idea for people to take prevention measures to keep themselves from contracting the illness or spreading it to others. Humans spread viral meningitis to other humans through coughing, sneezing, or touching stool. To prevent or contain viral meningitis, then, people should thoroughly wash their hands often. In addition, they should cover any coughs or sneezes.

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