Increase Seen in Viral Meningitis Cases

August 8, 2001

Michigan Department of Community Health Chief Medical Executive, Dr. David R. Johnson, today announced an increased number of viral meningitis cases during the summer months, which is the usual peak time of the year for viral meningitis cases. Johnson also stressed commonsense precautions people can take to protect themselves from this infection.

Viral Meningitis is generally not a serious disease and most people make a full recovery within 10 days. Most cases are without symptoms, but if symptoms do occur they usually have a sudden onset. Fever and a very bad headache are typical symptoms, and some people may also have a rash. Anyone with these symptoms should seek medical attention.

"Viral meningitis should not be confused with bacterial meningitis, which is often very serious and can lead to death," said Johnson. "Viral meningitis can be caused by any one of a number of different viruses and is relatively common especially in the summer months."

As of July 20 a total of 399 cases has been reported to the Michigan Department of Community Health compared with an average of 251 cases in previous years.

People can reduce their risk of getting viral meningitis by taking some simple precautions. The viruses are picked up by direct contact with discharges from the nose and throats of people who are infected, so thorough and frequent hand washing with soap and warm water can help to prevent infection. The viruses can also be transmitted by eating food or drink which has been contaminated by someone with an infection, if the individual does not wash his hands well after using the bathroom, then subsequently handles food.

"Frequent and thoroughly hand-washing is the most important measure to prevent transmission of viruses that can cause meningitis," said Johnson. "Hand washing is also effective in stopping a number of other infectious diseases encountered in the summer months, and throughout the year."