epidemiology of viral meningitis

Last reviewed 01/2018

Viral meningitis can occur at any age but is seen frequently in young children (1)

  • according to the largest reported study (a 1966 birth cohort of 12,000 children in Finland), the annual incidence of presumed viral meningitis in infants under 1 year was 219 per 100,000 and in children under 14 was 27.8 per 100,000
  • in a smaller retrospective study, the aseptic meningitis incidence was lower - 7.6 per 100,000 in people aged 16 and over (1)
  • in UK, the incidence is estimated to be around 5 -15 cases per 100,000 per year (2)

Although viral meningitis is a notifiable disease in England and Wales many cases go unreported (1)

  • in 2005-06, there were 2898 patients admitted to hospital with a diagnosis of viral meningitis but the number of cases notified to Health Protection Agency for England and Wales over the same period was 10 times less (233 cases) (1)