Viral meningitis

What is viral meningitis?

Viral meningitis is an infection of the meninges, which are protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord, that is caused by a virus.

What causes viral meningitis?

Viral meningitis is caused by a virus spreading to and infecting the meninges. Several different viruses can cause meningitis including:

  • Enteroviruses – These are the most common cause of viral meningitis and mainly affect children.
  • Herpes viruses – These are a common cause of viral meningitis in adolescents and adults.
  • Mumps – This is most common in teenagers and young adults who aren’t fully vaccinated against the virus and in some cases it can lead to viral meningitis.
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) – This can cause viral meningitis in the early stages of infection although this is rare.

What are the symptoms of viral meningitis?

The symptoms of viral meningitis can differ depending on the age of the person affected. Common signs and symptoms for all children and adults include:

  • A fever with cold hands and feet
  • Being sick
  • Drowsy and difficult to wake
  • Confusion and irritability
  • Severe muscle pain
  • A rash that does not fade when a glass is rolled over it
  • A severe headache
  • A stiff neck
  • Sensitivity to bright lights
  • Seizures.

Babies and toddlers may also experience the above signs and symptom in addition to:

  • Refusing food
  • A dislike of being handled
  • Rapid breathing
  • An unusual cry
  • The soft spot on their head (the fontanelle) being tense or bulging.

Have you been affected by viral meningitis?

If you’ve been affected by viral meningitis, The Brain Charity can support you.

We are the only charity in the UK to be here for every one of the more than 600 different neurological conditions in existence. Individually, many are rare, but combined, they affect 1 in 6 people.

We provide practical help on all aspects of life after viral meningitis, emotional support such as counselling, phone befriending and group therapy and social activities to people with brain injuries from all over the UK from our centre in Liverpool.

Looking to talk to someone?

Woman smiling, making eye contact and holding the hand of another woman to comfort her

Phone us

Contact The Brain Charity now

Our friendly Information & Advice Officers are here to help. We endeavour to respond to all enquiries within 10 working days.

0151 298 2999

Looking to talk to someone?

  • Please tell us which neurological condition you are affected by and what you need support with.

Caring for someone who has been affected by viral meningitis

We support carers, friends and family too

Are you a carer for or relative of someone with viral meningitis? It’s just as important for you to look after your own physical and mental wellbeing too.

The Brain Charity provides free support for carers, friends and family of people with any form of neurological condition, including meningitis, from anywhere in the UK.

We also run an additional carers advocacy service for all carers in Liverpool, regardless of which type of condition the person they care for has.

You don’t need to be a formal or registered carer

We can help you even if you don’t view yourself as a formal carer or claim Carer’s Allowance. Find out some of the ways we support carers below.

Other resources

The Brain Charity's library

The Brain Charity’s library has a range of resources on meningitis and on many other disability-related issues.

Visit our library to read:

Or search the catalogue online here.

Support groups

Meningitis Now Peer Support

A Facebook group that provides an opportunity for those who have been affected by meningitis and their families and carers to communicate and share their experiences.


Phone: 0808 801 0388


Meningitis Now HealthUnlocked

An online forum where those who have been directly or indirectly affected by meningitis can share experiences, ask questions and get information.


Phone: 0808 801 0388



Support groups at The Brain Charity

Are you interested in setting up a meningitis support group, or do you already run one?

Email to let us know.

Alternatively, you can check out our list of related support groups here.

Other charities

Meningitis Now

Meningitis Research Foundation