What is Viral Meningitis? Can coronavirus(covid-19) cause meningitis?
I got this question from one of the patients who have a history of meningitis and was worried if she is vulnerable to another episode of meningitis if she ever gets a covid-19 infection.
Let’s first discuss basic things.
What is Viral Meningitis?
It is the most common type of meningitis caused by viruses.
What is Meningitis?
It is the inflammation of coverings of the brain and spine.
What are other types of meningitis?
Meningitis can also be caused by bacteria, fungi, amoeba and parasites so the name varies. The types are Bacterial Meningitis, Fungal Meningitis, Amoebic Meningitis and Parasitic Meningitis.
Who is at risk of getting viral Meningitis?
Neonates (babies less than a month old), infants, and people with the weak immune system (HIV/AIDS patients, patients receiving immunosuppressive therapies) are at risk.
Can coronavirus (COVID-19) cause Viral Meningitis?
Yes, it can cause meningitis. In fact, it can be the presenting complaint without any lungs involvement at first. You can read these 2 papers below which were published in May 2020 and Sept 2020. Although there are no data available that can say whether it increases your likelihood of getting another episode of meningitis. It’s better to be careful and follow all protocols to avoid getting infected.
Read about other complications of covid-19 here
Which viruses are known to causes meningitis?
Coxsackie and ECHO (enteroviruses) viruses are the most common causes of viral meningitis in India. In the US, enteroviruses (non-polio) are the main culprit. Due to the availability of vaccine for bacterial meningitis, the number of cases of bacterial meningitis has reduced, thus making viruses as the most common cause of meningitis.
Other common viruses that can cause meningitis are Mumps virus, Epstein-Barr virus, herpes simplex viruses, and varicella-zoster virus, Influenza virus, Measles virus etc.
How it is transmitted?
You are at risk of getting the virus by coming in close contact with people who already have it. But not everyone will get meningitis.
What are the symptoms of Viral Meningitis?
Symptoms which are commonly seen in babies are fever, poor appetite, lethargy, vomiting. In adults, some additional symptoms can be seen such as the stiff neck, headache and increase sensitivity to light.
How much time does it take to recover from Viral Meningitis?
It usually takes 7-14 days to fully recover but complicated cases may take more time.
What are the complications seen if left untreated?
Though it is less dangerous than bacterial meningitis, if left untreated it can cause organ failure and even death.
How it is diagnosed?
Sample can be taken from various sources like throat, blood, stool, CSF (fluid present in your spinal cord) to detect the presence of the virus.
How it is treated?
If it is mild then only symptomatic treatment and care is needed. Antivirals may be needed if the Herpes or influenza viruses are the culprits.
Is there any vaccine available for viral meningitis?
Vaccines are not available for enteroviruses but they are available for measles, mumps and influenza viruses.