A 46-year-old female presenting with worsening headache, nuchal rigidity and a skin rash in varicella zoster virus meningitis: a case report

Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, Island University Hospital 475 Seaview Ave., Staten Island, NY 10305 USA.
Cases Journal 09/2009; 2:6299. DOI: 10.4076/1757-1626-2-6299
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Varicella zoster virus causes two distinct clinical diseases. Varicella is the primary infection and results from exposure of a person susceptible to the virus. The virus remains latent in cranial nerve ganglia, dorsal root ganglia, and autonomic ganglia along the entire neuraxis. Years later, in association with a decline in cell-mediated immunity in the elderly and immuno-compromised, varicella zoster virus reactivates and can cause a wide range of neurologic disease, including herpes zoster ('shingles'), postherpetic neuralgia, vasculopathy, myelopathy, retinal necrosis, cerebellitis, and zoster sine herpete. Herpes zoster is associated with numerous neurologic complications and varied presentations. Patients who have a dermatomal distribution of varicella zoster virus and who have headaches should be considered to have VZV meningitis. Virologic confirmation requires testing the cerebrospinal fluid for varicella zoster virus deoxyribonucleic acid via polymerase chain reaction. The application of polymerase chain reaction to the cerebrospinal fluid can be used to detect varicella zoster virus deoxyribonucleic acid and, therefore, infections of the central nervous system. We present a case report of a 46-year-old female who initially presented with worsening headache, nuchal rigidity, fever, and a skin rash, who was subsequently found to have varicella zoster meningitis.

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