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One of the most common symptoms of meningitis is fever and neck pain. Other conditions with these symptoms include a neck abscess, a rhinovirus infection or a very rare virus known as Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever. Experts advise that fever accompanied by neck pain may be the sign of a very serious illness, particularly when observed in children, and immediate medical attention should be sought.
When the membranes that cover the brain and the spinal cord become inflamed due to infection, this is a condition known as meningitis, and it is a very serious and potentially life-threatening illness. Symptoms include fever, neck stiffness and pain, confusion, headache, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and a skin rash. In some cases, individuals suffering from this illness may also experience seizures, brain damage or death if the infection is not treated in time. Fever and neck pain are most often found in pediatric cases, and many adults do not present symptoms beyond fatigue and mental confusion.
Fever and neck pain may also be due to the onset of a rhinovirus, which causes the common cold. Common cold symptoms may also include a sore throat, fatigue, nasal congestion, loss of appetite, coughing and sneezing. More severe symptoms may also include a severe headache, earache, chest congestion, breathing difficulties, muscle stiffness and fever over 101°F (38.3°C).
A neck abscess, also known as a retropharyngeal abscess, is a buildup of pus in the tissue lining the back of the throat. Generally, this condition is preceded by a throat infection and most commonly occurs in children. Besides intense pain and fever, other symptoms may include difficulty swallowing and breathing, and drooling. In cases where a child’s airway becomes obstructed, a neck abscess can be fatal. Often, surgery is needed to treat this condition.
A rare, but very deadly, progressive viral infection known as Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever may cause a fever and chills, skin rash, bruises, dizziness, confusion, diarrhea, vomiting, neck pain and a severe headache. Some people have been known to become very aggressive when infected with the virus. Bleeding in the brain may also occur if this illness is not detected in time.