Viral Meningitis

An Overview

Teresa Chu, PhD


US Pharmacist. 2014;39(4):HS-13-HS-16. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Viral meningitis is the most common form of meningitis, affecting individuals of all ages. Enteroviruses constitute the most common host, followed by herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2), varicella-zoster virus, and others. The classic symptoms of viral meningitis—sudden onset of fever, stiff neck, and altered mental status—are indistinguishable from those of bacterial meningitis. Analysis of cerebrospinal fluid obtained via lumbar puncture provides a definitive diagnosis. There is no specific treatment. Complete recovery within 7 to 10 days is common, except in immunocompromised patients. In addition to symptom management, antiviral agents may be used to treat HSV-2 meningitis. The best strategy for avoiding viral meningitis is to prevent viral infection by undergoing vaccination and practicing good hygiene.


Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes (dura, pia, and arachnoid maters) covering the brain and spinal cord. Causes of meningitis include viral, bacterial, and fungal infections, and host factors directly affect disease progression and outcome. Viral meningitis, a type of aseptic meningitis, is the most common form; it accounts for about 50% of meningitis-related hospitalizations in the United States, but most cases are self-limiting.[1] In contrast, acute bacterial meningitis is a potentially fatal neurologic emergency, and survivors can have permanent neurologic complications.[2] Therefore, it is critical to rapidly determine the type of meningitis during diagnosis.