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Suspected Viral Meningitis Warrants Hospital Referral

U.K. researchers conduct a clinical review of meningitis and find young children most vulnerable

FRIDAY, Jan. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Because of the difficulty of reliably differentiating viral and bacterial meningitis clinically, suspected cases of viral meningitis should always be referred to hospital, according to an article published in the Jan. 5 issue of BMJ.

Sarah A.E. Logan and Eithne MacMahon of Guy's and St. Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust in London, U.K., conducted a clinical review of research on meningitis. They established that the population most susceptible to viral meningitis is infants and young children, and that incidence decreases with age. Suspected infection in young children should be treated with particular caution, the authors note, as they may present without symptoms of meningeal irritation.

Although the cause often remains undiagnosed, enteroviruses are the most commonly identified, followed by the herpes simplex virus type 2, varicella zoster virus and herpes simplex virus type 1. HIV infection is another important cause of meningitis, the authors write. Most cases of viral meningitis caused by enteroviruses are self-limiting and have a good prognosis.

"As a consequence of the increasing incidence of genital herpes, clinical cases of herpes simplex virus meningitis in the United Kingdom are set to increase," the authors caution.

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