Infectious meningitis can be caused by bacteria or viruses. Aseptic (viral) meningitis occurs primarily in young children, and is usually less severe than bacterial meningitis.  Meningitis is an irritation of the covering of the brain and spinal cord.  Symptoms usually include fever, headache, lack of appetite, stomach pain, nausea and vomiting, and stiff neck.   Nearly 100% of those infected with viral meningitis recover fully, and these symptoms generally go away with no permanent damage after a few days to a week.  Anyone developing these symptoms should contact his or her family doctor (or the health department, if they do not have a family doctor).
 
The virus may be present in the bowel movements and saliva of infected persons. People become infected only by swallowing the virus, either from bowel movement contamination or from respiratory droplets from infected persons. Spread of the virus can be reduced and controlled with a few simple measures:
 
- Wash your hands thoroughly after changing a child's diaper.
- Wash your hands, and encourage your children to wash their hands, thoroughly after using the toilet.
- Wash your hands, and encourage your children to wash their hands, thoroughly before eating.
- Do not share water bottles, drinking cups or other eating utensils
- Please do not send children to school if they are sick.
 
Transmission of viruses that cause aseptic meningitis can be prevented by diligently following the recommendations above. Good hand washing and good personal hygiene are very important in stopping the spread of disease. The viruses that cause aseptic meningitis DO NOT survive outside the human body very long, and routine cleaning procedures are sufficient to sanitize the environment. Because the transmission of this infection is preventable, the Lawrence County Health Department does not recommend closure of school or the cancellation of school functions or public events. 
 
For more information, please contact the Lawrence County Health Department at 740-532-3962.