Herpes simplex meningitis is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). The virus is spread through contact with infected saliva, skin, or mucous membranes. HSV-2 is the most common cause of herpes simplex meningitis.
Diagnosis of herpes simplex meningitis is made through a lumbar puncture, which reveals an elevated white cell count and protein in the cerebrospinal fluid. Tests for HSV-1 and HSV-2 may also be done.
Differential diagnosis for herpes simplex meningitis includes bacterial meningitis, viral meningitis, and other viral infections such as cytomegalovirus, mumps, and enterovirus.
Treatment of herpes simplex meningitis is typically with antiviral medications such as acyclovir or valacyclovir. Corticosteroids may also be used to reduce inflammation.
The prognosis for herpes simplex meningitis is generally good with prompt treatment. Most patients recover without complications. However, some cases can be more severe and may lead to neurologic deficits, hearing loss, and other long-term complications.