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HealthInfo Canterbury

Viral meningitis


The symptoms of viral meningitis are similar to those of bacterial meningitis, which can be fatal or cause serious disabilities.

Early treatment is essential. If you think that you or your child has the symptoms listed below, seek medical help immediately.

Meningitis is an infection of the membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. Viral meningitis (also known as nonbacterial meningitis) is caused by several different viruses and is relatively common.

Anyone can get viral meningitis, but children and particularly babies have a higher risk of getting it. Viral meningitis is rarely fatal.

Symptoms of viral meningitis include a fever, a headache, sensitivity to bright light, a stiff neck and generally feeling unwell. Babies with viral meningitis may be irritable.

How is viral meningitis treated?

The treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms. You can take paracetamol or ibuprofen (ask your GP or pharmacist for advice) to help with fever and headaches. Most people recover within 5 days to a fortnight.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed June 2018.


Page reference: 49720

Review key: HIVME-49720