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Encephalitis and Everything You Need to Know

Medically reviewed by Sandeep Dhanyamraju
Medically reviewed by Sandeep Dhanyamraju

Encephalitis is a complex disease associated with inflammation of the human brain. Often referred to as a viral infection, the disease can be caused by bacteria, parasites, fungi, or autoimmune diseases. In addition, encephalitis can also appear due to severe head trauma, such as after an accident or severe bruising, or as a result of cancer.

 

This disease develops at any age, but most often, it can be found in children under 5 years of age or infants. In addition, the disease most actively shows itself at the end of the summer period and at the beginning of the autumn.

 

Symptoms can be very different, as the sources of the disease are completely different. These include:

  • Fever.
  • Headache.
  • Vomiting and mental status changes.

 

Treatment is carried out depending on what specifically caused the disease, so almost every case is unique, and it’s not easy to find a solution on the Internet.

 

Most often, the doctor prescribes antibiotics, steroids, or antiviral drugs.

 

Timely diagnosis and treatment are essential for a good outcome. As with any medical condition, it’s important to check with your doctor if you suspect you may have encephalitis.

 

Risk Factors

Each of us can get absolutely any disease. In addition, we can also get sick with those diseases that were previously not even studied by the bright minds of our planet. 

 

However, as practice shows, there is always a group and risk factors where people are more likely to get the disease than others. Is it true that if you jump from the second floor, you will be more likely to damage your bones than the person lying on the sofa at that moment?

 

Several risk factors may increase your risk of developing inflammation of the brain, including:

  • Age: Most often, infants or very old people can get this disease.
  • Weak immune system: HIV/AIDS or cancer is most often the result of other diseases in people with low immune systems.
  • Geography: People who live or travel in areas where certain viruses are common, such as the West Nile virus in Africa or the Japanese encephalitis virus in Asia, are also most likely to get the disease.
  • Contact with sick animals: People who have infected animals or other animals with the encephalitis virus are at risk of contracting the disease.
  • Contact with an infected person: People who have close contact with someone who has a viral infection that can cause encephalitis, such as herpes simplex virus or varicella-zoster virus, are at risk of contracting the disease.

 

What Are the Main Encephalitis Symptoms?

Encephalitis symptoms

Symptoms of encephalitis can develop suddenly or gradually. They may include:

  • Fever
  • Stiff neck
  • Headache
  • Seizures
  • Weakness or paralysis (can be temporary or permanent)
  • Confusion or memory problems (can be temporary or permanent)
  • Personality changes (can be temporary or permanent)
  • Coma (in severe cases)

 

Encephalitis can cause mild to severe symptoms. In rare cases, it can be fatal. Infants and young children are more likely to have severe symptoms.

 

What Are the Common Encephalitis Causes?

A viral infection usually causes encephalitis. The most common viruses that cause encephalitis are:

  • Herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 1 is the same one that causes cold sores and genital herpes. 
  • Herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 2 is the same one that causes genital herpes. 
  • Varicella zoster virus (VZV): This virus is the same one that causes chickenpox and shingles. 
  • Epstein-Barr virus (EBV): This virus is the same one that causes mononucleosis (“mono”). 
  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV): This virus is a common infection that usually causes no symptoms of encephalitis
  • West Nile virus: This virus is spread by mosquitoes. It’s most common in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. In rare cases, it has been found in the United States.

 

Most often, the above bacteria can infect a person with encephalitis during sexual contact, contact with the saliva or mucus of an infected person, contact with a rash, and in almost all cases, all of these above viruses can be transmitted from mother to child during childbirth.

 

Other viruses that can cause encephalitis include:

  • Enteroviruses.
  • Adenoviruses.
  • Mumps virus.
  • Measles virus.
  • Rabies virus.

 

Bacterial infections in the brain that can cause encephalitis include:

  • Lyme disease: This infection is caused by bacteria that are spread by ticks. It’s most common in the United States.
  • Syphilis: This infection is caused by bacteria that are spread through sexual contact with an infected person. It’s most common in the United States.
  • Tuberculosis: This infection is caused by bacteria spread through the air. It’s most common in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

 

Fungal infections that can cause inflammation of the brain include:

  • Cryptococcosis: This infection is caused by fungi found in bird droppings. It’s most common in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
  • Histoplasmosis: This infection is caused by fungi found in bird and bat droppings. It’s most common in the United States.

 

Encephalitis can also be caused by:

  • Autoimmune disorders: These are conditions that occur when your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body.
  • Physical injury: This can include a blow to the head or exposure to certain chemicals.
  • Tumors: These can be cancerous or noncancerous growths.

 

In some cases, inflammation of the brain has no known cause. This is called idiopathic encephalitis.

Due to the wide range of bacteria and other carriers of the virus that can infect humans, an accurate and timely diagnosis is 80% of the success rate in human treatment. Most often this is due to the fact that the disease is very severe and almost always leads, if not to a coma, then to the death of an infected person.

Encephalitis

Probable Complications of the Disease

Encephalitis can cause serious complications, including:

  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Muscle weakness
  • Paralysis
  • Coma
  • Seizures
  • Death

 

 What Is the Treatment for Encephalitis?

Treatment for encephalitis depends on the cause.

 

If a virus causes encephalitis, your doctor may prescribe antiviral medication. These drugs can help to reduce the severity of symptoms and shorten the duration of the illness.

 

If bacteria cause encephalitis, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics. These drugs can help to kill the bacteria that are causing the infection.

 

If a fungus causes encephalitis, your doctor may prescribe antifungal medication. These drugs can help to kill the fungi that are causing the infection.

 

In some cases, encephalitis cannot be cured. Treatment for encephalitis will focus on relieving symptoms and supporting your nervous system. This can include:

  • Pain medication
  • Antidepressants
  • Physical therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Occupational therapy

 

Read about recovering from encephalitis in our other article.

 

How Is Encephalitis Diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask about your medical history and symptoms. They will also do a physical exam.

 

Tests may include:

  • Blood tests: These are used to look for infections or other conditions.
  • Spinal tap (lumbar puncture): This procedure removes a small amount of cerebrospinal fluid from your spine. The fluid will be tested for infections or other conditions.
  • MRI: This type of scan uses magnetic waves to take pictures of your brain.
  • CT scan: This type of scan uses x-rays to take pictures of your brain.
  • EEG: This test records electrical activity in your brain.
  • Brain biopsy: This procedure removes a small tissue sample from your brain. The tissue will be tested for infections or other conditions.

 

Methods to Prevent Infections in the Brain

There is no guaranteed way to prevent encephalitis. However, you can reduce your risk by taking steps to avoid infections and mosquito bites. These steps include:

  • Washing your hands often with soap and water.
  • Avoiding close contact with sick people.
  • Staying up to date on vaccinations, including the flu vaccine and the HPV vaccine.
  • Wearing mosquito repellent when you are outdoors.
  • Wearing long sleeves and pants when you are outdoors.
  • Using air conditioning or screens on doors and windows to keep mosquitoes out of your home.

 

Bottom Line 

Encephalitis is a serious condition that can cause lasting damage to the brain. Early diagnosis and treatment for encephalitis are essential for preventing complications. Taking steps to avoid infections and mosquito bites can help to reduce your risk of encephalitis. 

 

Remember that self-medication can be dangerous, especially when it comes to treating diseases that can lead to death. If you notice at least one of the symptoms of this disease, you should contact the clinic for help. For example, LoneStarNeurology is one of the leading clinics in the field of neurology

 

Our specialists have extensive experience in treating and preventing many neurological diseases, so entrusting your health to them is not a shame. To get the help you need, just go to this link and fill out the form. After that, our specialists will contact you and provide further instructions.

 

FAQ

  • What are the warning signs of encephalitis?

The warning signs of encephalitis are its key symptoms like fever, headache, seizures, weakness or paralysis, confusion or memory problems, personality changes (can be temporary or permanent), coma.

 

  • What happens if you get encephalitis?

Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain’s active tissues caused by an infection or an autoimmune response. The inflammation causes the brain to swell, resulting in headaches, stiff neck, light sensitivity, mental confusion, and seizures.

 

  • Where is encephalitis most commonly found?

Encephalitis is a type of brain inflammation frequently caused by a viral infection. Arboviruses can cause encephalitis. Insects transmit arboviruses to humans and animals. Mosquitoes and ticks are the most common vectors in rural areas.

 

  • What is the survival rate of encephalitis?

Despite this heterogeneity, nearly all cases of encephalitis are admitted to the hospital, and the overall prognosis remains poor, with an inpatient mortality rate ranging between 5% and 20%. Those who survive are frequently left with long-term neurological deficits and functional limitations.

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Lone Star Neurology
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Edward Medina
Edward Medina
15:34 30 Jun 22
Just such an amazing staff that makes you feel like part of their family. I’ve been going there for over 5 years now... and each visit I get the very best care and treatments that I have ever received in the 20+ years that I’ve been dealing with severe debilitating migraines. Since i started seeing them the number of my migraines has dropped from 15-20 a month to 2-3 every 3 month. I highly recommend them …they will change your life!read more
Daneisha Johnson
Daneisha Johnson
22:20 19 May 22
Dr. Askari was very kind and explained everything so I could understand. The other staff were nice as well. I would... have gave 5 stars but I was a little taken aback when I checked in and had to pay 600.00 upfront. I think that should have been discussed in a appointment confirmation call or email just so I could have been prepared.read more
Jean Cooper
Jean Cooper
16:54 29 Apr 22
I love the office staff they are friendly and very helpful. Dr. JODIE is very caring and understanding to your needs... and wants to help you. I will go back. would recommend Dr. Dr. Jodie to other Patients in a heart beat. The team works well together.read more
Linda M
Linda M
19:40 02 Apr 22
I was obviously stressed, needing to see a neurologist. The staff was so patient and Dr. Ansari was so kind. At one... point he told me to relax, we have time, when I was relaying my history of my condition. That helped ease my stress. I have seen 3 other neurologists and he was the only one who performed any assessment tests on my cognitive and physical skills. At one point I couldn't complete two assessments and got upset and cried. I was told, it's OK. That's why you're here. I was truly impressed, and super pleased with the whole experience!read more
Leslie Durham
Leslie Durham
15:05 01 Apr 22
I've been coming here for about 5 years. The staff are ALWAYS friendly and knowledgeable. The Doctors are the absolute... best!! Jodie Moore is always in such a great mood which is a plus when you are already stressed. Highly recommendedread more
Monica Del Bosque
Monica Del Bosque
14:13 25 Mar 22
Since my first post my thoughts have changed here. It's unfortunate. My doctor and PA were great, but the office staff... is horrible. They never call you back when they say they will, they misinform you, they cause you too much stress wondering what's going on, they don't keep you posted. They never answer the phone. At this point I've left four messages in the last week, and I have sent three messages. Twice from their portal and one direct email. No response. My appointment is on Monday morning at 8:30am, no confirmation on my insurance and what's going on. What the heck is going on, this is ridiculous!I've given up... the stress her office staff has put me through is just not worth it. You can do so much better, please clean house, either change out your office staff, or find a way for them to be more efficient please. You have to do something. This is not how you want to run your practice. It leaves a very bad impression on your business.read more
Ron Buckholz
Ron Buckholz
23:32 23 Mar 22
I was actually pleasantly surprised with this visit! It took me a long time to get the appointment scheduled because no... one answers your phones EVER! After a month, I finally got in, and your staff was warm, friendly, and I was totally impressed! I feel like you will take care of my needs!read more
Steve Nabavi
Steve Nabavi
16:28 16 Mar 22
It was a nice visit. Happy staff doing all they can do to comfort the patients in a very calming environment. You ask... me they are earned a big gold star on the fridge. My only complaint they didn't give me any cookies.read more
Katie Lewis
Katie Lewis
16:10 10 Feb 22
Had very positive appointments with Jodie and Dr. Sheth for my migraine care. Jodie was so fast with the injections and... has so much valuable info. I started to feel light headed during checkout and the staff was SO helpful—giving me a chair, water, and taking me into a private room until I felt better. Highly recommend this practice for migraine patients, they know what they’re doing!!read more
Joshua Martinez
Joshua Martinez
16:02 10 Dec 21
I was scheduled to be checked and just want to say that the staff was fantastic. They were kind and helpful. I was... asked many questions related to what was going on and not once did I feel as though I was being brushed off. The front desk staff was especially great in assisting me. I'm scheduled to go back for a mri and am glad that I'll be going there.read more
Isabel Ivy
Isabel Ivy
21:42 03 Nov 21
I had such a good experience with Lone Star Neurology, Brent my MRI Tech was so awesome and made sure I was very... comfortable during the appointment. He gave me ear plugs, a pillow, leg support and blanket, easiest MRI ever lol 🤣 My 72 hour EEG nurse Amanda was also so awesome. She made sure I was take care of over the 3 days and took her time with the electrodes to make sure it was comfortable for me! Paige was also a huge help in answering all my questions when it came to my test results, and letting me know her honest opinions about how I should go forth with my treatment.read more
Leslie Luce
Leslie Luce
17:37 20 Oct 21
The professionalism and want to help attitude of this office was present from the moment I contacted them. The follow... up and follow through as well as their willingness to find a way to schedule my dad was above and beyond. We visited two offices in the same day with the same experience. I am appreciative of this—we spend a lot of time with doctors and this was top notch start to finish.read more
robert Parker
robert Parker
16:38 16 Apr 21
I love going to this office. The staff is friendly and helpful. The doctor is great. I am getting the best... neurological tests and treatment I have ever had. The only reason I did not give them a 5 star rating is because it is impossible to reach a live person at the office to reschedule appointments. Every time I have tried to get through to the office it says all people are busy and I am sent to a voicemail. If they could get their phone answering fixed, I would give them a strong 5 stars.read more
MaryAnn Hornbaker
MaryAnn Hornbaker
00:26 25 Feb 21
Dr. Harney is an excellent Dr. I found him friendly , personable and thorough. I evidently am an unusual case. ... Therefore he spent a Hugh amount of time educating me. He even gave me literature to further explain my condition and how to follow up. This is something you rarely get from your doctors. So I am more than please with my doctor and his staff.read more
Roger Arguello
Roger Arguello
03:05 29 Jan 21
Always courteous, professional. The staff is very friendly and always work with you to find the best appointment time.... The care team has been great. Always taking the time to listen to your concerns and to find the best treatment.read more
Margaret Rowland
Margaret Rowland
01:12 27 Jan 21
I have been a patient at Lone Star Neurology for several years. Now both my adult daughters also are patients there. I... love Jodie. She is always so prompt whether it is a teleamed call are a visit in the office. She takes the time to explain everything to me and answers all my questions. I am so blessed to have Jodie as my doctor.read more
Susan Miller
Susan Miller
03:01 13 Jan 21
My husband had an accident 5 years ago and Lone Star Neurology has been such a blessing to us with my husbands care.... Jodie Moore is his provider and she is amazing! Jodie is very knowledgeable, caring, and thorough. She takes her time with you, making sure your needs are met and she is happy to answer any questions you may have. Lone Star Neurology’s patients are very lucky to have Jodie providing their care. Thank you Lone Star Neurology and especially Jodie for everything you have done for us. Jodie, you are the best!read more
Windalyn C
Windalyn C
01:32 09 Jan 21
Jodie is wonderful. She is very caring and knowledgeable. I have been to over a dozen neurologists, and none were able... to help me as much as they have here. Thanks!read more
Katie Kordel
Katie Kordel
00:40 09 Jan 21
Jodi Moore, nurse practitioner, is amazing. I have suffered from frequent, debilitating headaches for almost 20 years.... She has provided the best proactive and responsive care I have ever received. My quality of life has been greatly improved by her caring approach and tenacity in finding solutions.read more
Ellie Natsis
Ellie Natsis
15:41 07 Jan 21
I have had the best experience at this neurologist's office! For over a year I have been receiving iv treatments here... each month and my nurse, Bobbie is beyond wonderful!! She's so attentive, knowledgeable, caring, and detail oriented. She makes an otherwise uncomfortable experience much more pleasant and definitely puts me at ease! She also helps me with my insurance,ordering this specialty medication and dealing with the ordering process which is no easy feat.Needless to say, she goes above a beyond in every way and I'm so grateful to this office and to Bobbie for all they do for me!read more
Matt Morris
Matt Morris
15:39 07 Jan 21
Let me start by saying that I have been coming here for years. Due to my autoimmune disease, I am in this office... once every three weeks for multiple hours at a time. The office is very clean and the staff very friendly. My only complaint would be there communication via phone. They aren't the best at responding if you leave a voicemail and expect a call back. I understand that this is prob just due to the sheer number of alls they receive daily. What I can say I like the best about the office are the people. Bobby who handles my infusions is great. I never have any issues with her setting up my infusions. She is very quick to reply to messages sent via text and if she were to leave then my whole opinion of the office may change. I also enjoy people like Matt, Lauren, and Jodi. I appreciate all that they do for me and without this team I'm not sure I would be as happy as I am to visit the office as frequently as I have to. Please ensure that these folks are recognized as they are what makes my visit to this office so tolerable :).read more
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