When I started getting a headache one day, I never in my wildest dreams thought it would turn out to be Viral Meningitis. But the excruciating pain (like my head was in a vice grip) was almost too much to bear. Not only did I have a migraine from hell, but I couldn’t turn my head. My neck felt just as painful. But what the hec was wrong?

I had contracted Viral Meningitis in the backcountry. How does one contract Viral Meningitis in the backcountry? Good question.

What is viral meningitis?

Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes (“meninges”) that cover the brain and spinal cord. Viral infections are the most common cause of meningitis; bacterial infections are the second most common cause. Other, rarer causes of meningitis include fungi, parasites, and non-infectious causes, including those that are related to drugs.

What causes this? Here is where it gets scary. A simple mosquito bite.

Different viral infections can lead to viral meningitis. But most cases in the United States, particularly during the summer and fall months, are caused by enteroviruses (which include enteroviruses, coxsackieviruses, and echoviruses). Most people who are infected with enteroviruses either have no symptoms or only get a cold, rash, or mouth sores with low-grade fever. And, only a small number of people with enterovirus infections go on to develop meningitis.

Arboviruses, which mosquitoes and other insects spread, can also cause infections that can lead to viral meningitis. And lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus, which is spread by rodents, is a rare cause of viral meningitis.

arboviruses, are viruses that are maintained in nature through biological transmission between susceptible vertebrate hosts by blood feeding arthropods (mosquitoes, psychodids, ceratopogonids, and ticks). Vertebrate infection occurs when the infected arthropod takes a blood meal. The term ‘arbovirus’ has no taxonomic significance. Arboviruses that cause human encephalitis are members of three virus families: Read more HERE

So there it is. I contracted Viral Meningitis from some mosquito, or from bad water.

There is no specific treatment for viral meningitis. Most patients completely recover on their own within 2 weeks. Antibiotics do not help viral infections, so they are not useful in the treatment of viral meningitis. Doctors often will recommend bed rest, plenty of fluids, and medicine to relieve fever and headache. However, Bacterial Meningitis can be deadly. So you must consult your Doctor if you think you may have Viral Meningitis.

Symptoms include: Severe Headache, Nausea, Stiff Neck, Sweats, and Fatigue, Lack of Appetite (I had all of the above)

* Following good hygiene practices can reduce the spread of viruses, such as enteroviruses, herpesviruses, and measles and mumps viruses. Preventing the spread of virus can be difficult, especially since sometimes people are infected with a virus (like an enterovirus) but do not appear sick. In such cases, infected people can still spread the virus to others. Thus, it is important to always practice good hygiene to help reduce your chances of becoming infected with a virus or of passing one on to someone else:
o Wash your hands thoroughly and often (see CDC’s Clean Hands Save Lives! web site). This is especially important after changing diapers, using the toilet, or coughing or blowing your nose in a tissue. For more information on hand washing, see the video Put Your Hands Together, listen to the podcast Put Your Hands Together.
o Cleaning contaminated surfaces, such as handles and doorknobs or the TV remote control, with soap and water and then disinfecting them with a dilute solution of chlorine-containing bleach also may decrease the spread of viruses. This solution can be made by mixing ¼ cup of bleach with 1 gallon (16 cups) of water. (See more about cleaning and disinfecting in general in CDC’s Prevention Resources).
o Cover your cough. The viruses that cause viral meningitis can be spread by direct and indirect contact with respiratory secretions, so it is important to cover your cough with a tissue or, if you do not have a tissue, to cough into your upper arm. After using a tissue, place it in the trash and wash your hands.
o Avoid kissing or sharing a drinking glass, eating utensil, lipstick, or other such items with sick people or with others when you are sick.
* Avoiding bites from mosquitoes and other insects that carry diseases that can infect humans may help reduce your risk for viral meningitis (see West Nile Virus, Fight the Bite!). Bring Mosquito repellent, and sanitary wipes when you go Hiking or Backpacking, keeping clean utensils, and food items. Make sure that your hands, and feet are clean. And for the love of pete, purify your water supply. Not just filter it. I will no longer just filter my water.

Please visit the CDC Website on Meningitis: Q @ A’s

Feel free to contact me at any time. Started Backpacking in 2003 and have never looked back. My all time favorite hike was last April when I hiked the Sycamore Wilderness Canyon. No trails, no signs, just wilderness and a 3,000 foot steep drop into the Canyon. I ran out of water my third day. Why? There was no water in the Canyon. You can check out my video on the “backpacker.tv” page. Thanks for dropping by.

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