How does the prevalence of viral meningitis vary by age?

Updated: Jul 17, 2018
  • Author: Cordia Wan, MD; Chief Editor: Niranjan N Singh, MBBS, MD, DM, FAHS, FAANEM  more...
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The incidence of viral meningitis drops with age, with the incidence during the first year of life being 20 times greater than it is in older children and adults.

Studies from Finland have estimated the incidence of viral meningitis to be 19 per 100,000 population in children aged 1-4 years. This is in significant contrast to 219 cases per 100,000 population estimated for children younger than age 1 year. [15]

Most arboviruses have diverse attack characteristics that affect both sexes, but at different ages. Some agents preferentially infect certain age groups, such as St. Louis encephalitis, which affects the extremes of age, and California virus, which infects young children.

In neonates older than 7 days, enteroviruses are the most common cause of aseptic meningitis. Vaccination has greatly reduced the incidence of meningitis from mumps, polio, and measles viruses.

Some of the arboviruses strike at the extremes of age, with the elderly at greater risk of infection, while mumps and measles peak in the later teenage years.

Males 16-21 years of age are at highest risk of developing mumps. Clusters of cases occur in schools and colleges in the winter months.

Most cases of measles occur in younger people in schools and colleges.

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