What is Meningitis?
Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain tissue, which may also involve the meninges, to varying degrees. Meningeal infection and meningitis are two diseases that are closely linked.
What causes encephalitis?
Encephalitis is usually due to infection caused by a virus, and encephalitis is usually a less severe disease than meningitis caused by bacteria.
Many common viral infections such as measles, chickenpox, mumps and rubella can in rare cases lead to acute encephalitis. Most of these viruses have become rare thanks to widespread MMR vaccination, and today is the herpes simplex virus is the leading cause of encephalitis. It is important to know that it is not always possible to obtain the virus in spite of the thorough investigations.
Some exotic viruses can cause inflammation of the brain, for example, Japanese Encephalitis and West Nile fever virus, both of which is transmitted by mosquitoes, and some parasites may also be the cause.
What are the symptoms of encephalitis?
- Headache (often severe).
- Fever (moderate).
- In severe cases, the disease develop personality changes, confusion and altered consciousness. Sometimes occur convulsions and paralysis. There are often signs of co-infection of the meninges with, among other stiff neck and back.
- In rare cases can cause convulsions or paralysis of arms and legs.
How common is encephalitis?
Inflammation of the brain seen in all age groups but is most common in children and young adults. There are less than 100 cases per year in Denmark. People with compromised immune systems, such as people with untreated HIV infection are at particular risk.
How is the disease diagnosed?
If the doctor for his examination of the patient suspected encephalitis, one will do some tests to confirm this:
- This will show an increased number of white blood cells if you have encephalitis whereas the content of protein and sugar in the spinal fluid is normal. The study is also used to determine whether there are bacteria in the spinal fluid and other signs of meningitis.
- It examines whether detectable virus in the spinal fluid by looking for genetic material from the virus (PCR test).
- It will also try to grow the virus from cerebrospinal fluid.
- CT scan or MRI of the brain and study of brain electrical activity (EEG) can also help to make the diagnosis.
How is encephalitis?
Treatment is always at a hospital. It will include drugs directed against the virus, given directly into a vein. The medicine can be given to the virus in the brain works, however, almost exclusively on the herpes simplex virus, so treatment usually consists primarily of trying to relieve the patient’s symptoms.
What is the prognosis for encephalitis?
A light encephalitis usually gives no existing injury, but more severe cases can be seen a variety of mental and physical symptoms such as epilepsy and personality changes. Other times seen lasting neurological changes following recovery from infection and it is not unusual to lose hearing.