Which clinical history findings are characteristic of aseptic meningitis?

Updated: Jul 17, 2018
  • Author: Tarakad S Ramachandran, MBBS, MBA, MPH, FAAN, FACP, FAHA, FRCP, FRCPC, FRS, LRCP, MRCP, MRCS; Chief Editor: Niranjan N Singh, MBBS, MD, DM, FAHS, FAANEM  more...
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The clinical manifestations of most acute viral meningitides may vary with the particular virus. Illness may be biphasic, with nonspecific constitutional symptoms followed by meningitis. The epidemiologic setting (e.g., time of year, geographic locale, exposure to insects, prevalent illnesses in the local community) and accompanying systemic manifestations may be helpful in making a presumptive diagnosis.

A detailed drug history is invaluable for identifying possible drug-induced aseptic meningitis, which has a clinical presentation indistinguishable from infectious meningitis. The drug history must include nonprescription medications such as ibuprofen.

The time course of acute viral meningitis varies. Onset may occur within a matter of hours after exposure or evolve more slowly over a few days. Usually, maximum deficit appears within 3-6 days after exposure. Persons infected with the viruses that commonly cause aseptic meningitis may remain infectious for weeks after contracting the virus.

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