Everything You Need to Know About Encephalitis


Encephalitis is the inflammation of the brain tissues that lead to swelling of the Brain. It can happen if an infection spread from somewhere else in the body to the brain. 

Encephalitis is quite rare but also life-threatening when it occurs and requires emergency management. Those with weakened immunity are more at risk of developing encephalitis.

What are the symptoms of encephalitis?

The signs and symptoms of Encephalitis include:

  • High fever
  • Headache
  • Neck stiffness (is an indication of meningoencephalitis)
  • Drowsy feeling (drowsiness)
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Memory problems (forgetfulness)
  • Hearing problems (deafness)
  • Problems with speech
  • Irritability
  • Poor appetite in children
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Numbness or tingling sensation
  • Sensitivity to light (common in meningoencephalitis)
  • Behavioral changes

What is the main cause of encephalitis?

Viral infections: are the most common cause of encephalitis.

  • Herpes simplex virus (most common viral agent in encephalitis)
  • HSV usually causes cold sores and genital herpes
  • Varicella-zoster virus (cause chickenpox and shingles)
  • Mumps virus
  • Rubella virus
  • Measles virus
  • Rabies virus
  • Poliovirus
  • Arbovirus
  • St Louis encephalitis caused by Flaviviridae group of viruses
  • West Nile virus (belongs to the Flaviviridae family)
  • Bunyavirales
  • Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus
  • Colorado tick virus
  • Japanese encephalitis virus

Bacteria infections are rare causes of encephalitis.

  • Syphilis
  • Mycoplasma species.
  • Listeria monocytogenes
  • Rickettsia Typhi

Other causes of encephalitis are:

  • Toxoplasmosis
  • Malaria
  • Primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (Naegleriasis).
  • Autoimmune encephalitis (Rasmussen encephalitis).

Risk Factors of Encephalitis:

Diagnosis of Encephalitis

Encephalitis is diagnosed when there is the presence of altered consciousness for at least 24hours without any other known cause, then several investigations are carried out, such as:

  • Lumbar puncture also known as the spinal tap is used to check cerebrospinal fluid color and content
  • Full blood count
  • Urine analysis
  • A polymerase chain reaction of cerebrospinal fluid (detect the presence of viral DNA in the fluid)
  • Electroencephalogram (monitors brain electrical activities, which will be abnormal in encephalitis)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain (will show the presence of inflammation and rule out other possible causes of symptoms)

Treatment Of Encephalitis:

The treatment of encephalitis is concentrated on the following: 

  • Bed rest
  • Fluid intake
  • Pain relievers: paracetamol
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain and to reduce inflammation: ibuprofen, naproxen
  • Corticosteroids to reduce swelling and pressure within the skull
  • Viral etiology: Acyclovir (Zovirax), Ganciclovir (Cytovene) and Foscarnet (Foscavir)
  • Bacteria etiology: Broad-spectrum antibiotics (penicillin, doxycycline) and Cephalosporins (ceftriaxone, cefuroxime, cefazolin)
  • Anti-seizures medications: phenytoin, acetazolamide, carbamazepine
  • Sedatives: diazepam, alprazolam, clonazepam
  • Speech therapy.
  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy

Lastly, this is an educational piece about encephalitis. If you experience any encephalitis symptoms, make sure to consult a doctor for a proper check-up.