Encephalitis is defined as inflammation of the brain tissue. It means encephalitis is different from meningitis, which is defined as inflammation of the layers of tissue.
Encephalitis is most often caused by a viral infection. Exposure to viruses can occur through:
• Breathing in respiratory droplets from an infected person
• Contaminated food or drink
• Mosquito, tick, and other insect bites
• Skin contact
Routine vaccination has greatly reduced encephalitis due to some viruses, including – Measles, Mumps, Polio, Rabies, Rubella, Varicella (chickenpox)
Some people may have symptoms of a cold or stomach infection before encephalitis symptoms begin.
When this infection is not very severe, the symptoms may be similar to those of other illnesses:
• Fever that is not very high
• Mild headache
• Low energy and a poor appetite
Other symptoms include:
• Clumsiness, unsteady gait
• Confusion, disorientation
• Irritability or poor temper control
• Light sensitivity
• Stiff neck and back (sometimes)
• Brain MRI
• CT scan of the head
• Culture of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), blood, or urine (however, this test is rarely useful)
• Electroencephalogram (EEG)
• Lumbar puncture and CSF examination
• Tests that detect antibodies to a virus (serology tests)
• Test that detects tiny amounts of virus DNA (polymerase chain reaction — PCR)
The goals of treatment are to provide supportive care to help the body fight the infection, and to relieve symptoms.
• Antiviral medicines, if a virus caused the infection
• Antibiotics, if bacteria is the cause
• Anticonvulsive medicines to prevent seizures
• Steroids to reduce brain swelling
• Sedatives for touchiness or restlessness
Children and adults should avoid contact with anyone who has encephalitis.
Scheming mosquitoes may reduce the chance of some infections that can lead to encephalitis.
• Apply an insect repellant contain the chemical, DEET when you go outside (but do not use DEET products on infants younger than 2 months).
• Take away any sources of standing water (such as old tires, cans, gutters, and wading pools).
• Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when outside, particularly at dusk.