Encephalitis is an inflammation in the brain tissue due to viral or bacterial infections. Usually, the signs and symptoms of this disease mimic mild flu. However, in some cases, it can turn severe and cause seizures, confusion, challenges in movement, and personality changes. Sometimes it can be life threatening as well . Though it is possible to fully recover from encephalitis, timely detection and immediate medical intervention are crucial for preventing complications .
Different types of viral infection can lead to encephalitis, including herpes simplex virus (HSV), tick-borne viruses, enteroviruses , rabies virus , mosquito borne viruses , mumps virus, rubella virus, and chickenpox virus. It can develop either during the course of these primary infections or immediately after them. Individuals having a weak immune system, children, and aged people have a high risk of developing encephalitis. However, in most cases, mild symptoms resolve within a few weeks without any severe complications. Bacterial infections and noninfectious inflammatory conditions can also cause encephalitis.
Types of encephalitis
Encephalitis infection is of two types:
- Primary encephalitis
In primary encephalitis, the bacteria or viral infection directly affects the brain. It may remain localized in one area or spread to nearby tissues. Sometimes, primary encephalitis results due to the reactivation of an inactive virus from previous infections.
- Secondary encephalitis
Secondary encephalitis usually develops due to a malfunctioning immune system. Here the immune cells, instead of destroying the disease-causing pathogens, attack the healthy brain cells. This type of brain inflammation mostly develops two to three weeks after a primary infection.
What are the symptoms of encephalitis?
You may experience mild to severe symptoms while suffering from encephalitis. They include:
Mild flu-like symptoms of encephalitis:
Severe symptoms of encephalitis:
- Confusion and hallucinations
- Paralysis in specific areas of the face or body
- Muscle weakness
- Challenges in speaking and hearing
- Comatose state [ prolonged unconsciousness]
Encephalitis symptoms among children:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Bulging at the fontanels (soft area on the baby’s skull)
- Body stiffness
- Challenges in eating food
When to see a doctor for encephalitis?
If you experience severe symptoms in encephalitis, seek immediate medical consultations. Do not neglect severe headache and altered consciousness in this disease, as it indicates complications. If babies or kids develop signs of encephalitis, book an urgent appointment with doctors.
Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment.
What causes encephalitis?
The exact cause of encephalitis is unknown to doctors in many cases. However, a viral infection is a common cause of this medical condition. In some rare instances, bacterial infections and non-infectious inflammatory diseases may also lead to encephalitis.
Common viral infections causing encephalitis
- Herpes simplex virus (HSV): Both HSV type 1 and HSV type 2 can lead to encephalitis. In HSV type 1 related encephalitis, patients may even suffer brain damage or death. However, the instances of these infections are rare.
- Other herpes viruses: Encephalitis can also result from Epstein-Barr virus (associated with infectious mononucleosis) and varicella-zoster infection virus (associated with chickenpox and shingles).
- Enteroviruses: Sometimes, patients develop encephalitis after poliovirus and coxsackievirus infection.
- Mosquito-borne viruses: There are chances of encephalitis after mosquito-borne viral infections like West Nile and La Crosse.
- Rabies virus: If infected dogs (carrying rabies virus) bite you, you can develop encephalitis.
- Childhood infections: Kids have a high risk of suffering from encephalitis after mumps, measles (rubeola), or German measles (rubella) infections.
What are the risk factors associated with encephalitis?
Certain groups of the population have a higher risk of developing encephalitis. They include:
- Age: Small babies, children, and older adults fall in the risk group for encephalitis.
- Weakened immune system: Patients having a compromised immune system (like AIDS patients) or taking immune-suppressing medications for other issues have a high risk of developing encephalitis.
- Geographical area: People living in areas with a high incidence of mosquito or tick-borne viruses are susceptible to encephalitis.
- Seasonal variation: The risk of encephalitis may increase in summers due to the enhanced activity of mosquito and tick-borne viruses.
Can encephalitis lead to complications?
Encephalitis may lead to complications if you belong to a vulnerable age, have severe symptoms, or do not seek medical attention. Common complications include:
- Inflammation of the brain tissues, leading to coma or even death
- Memory issues
- Persistent fatigue
- Problems with muscle coordination
- Vision and hearing impairments
- Challenges in speaking
What is the treatment for encephalitis?
The treatment for encephalitis depends on the symptoms, the person’s age, and the pathogens causing the infection. Mild symptoms usually resolve within a few weeks, if you undertake:
- Bed rest
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, belonging to acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen sodium groups. They help in relieving fevers and headaches.
Doctors may also prescribe antibiotics if bacterial infections cause encephalitis. Similarly, if a virus is responsible for the disease, then antiviral treatment consisting of acyclovir, ganciclovir, and foscarnet group of medicines might prove beneficial. Acyclovir may also be used .
Encephalitis can lead to complications and may even turn fatal.
Preventive measures against encephalitis
Consider the following preventive measures to avoid exposure to bacteria and viruses, causing encephalitis:
- Pay attention to hygiene
Incorporate hygienic practices in daily life by washing hands with soap and water before and after meals, and after visiting the washroom.
- Avoid sharing personal belongings
It is better to avoid sharing your personal belongings like clothes, soaps, combs, towels, and utensils.
- Undergo vaccinations
Consult your doctor for charting out a vaccination schedule for all the infectious diseases prevalent in your geographical area. Do not miss any doses, and immediately contact your doctor if you experience any side-effect after the vaccination shot. If you plan to visit a new country, discuss with your doctor about the recommended vaccines to prevent contagious diseases.
- Inculcate good habits among children
Encourage children to follow hygienic practices both in indoor and outdoor areas.
How can you protect yourself from mosquito and tick-borne viruses?
You already know mosquitoes and ticks-borne viruses can also cause encephalitis. So, it is essential to protect yourself from bites from these insects.
- Cover yourself with protective clothing
Try to wear full-sleeve clothes, especially if you stay outdoors during the early morning and dusk. The mosquitoes are highly active during this time.
- Apply mosquito repellent
Apply a safe mosquito repellent on your skin or clothes to protect yourself from mosquito bites. Do not apply the repellent directly on your face. First, spray the liquid on your hand and then wipe it across the face.
- Spray insecticide regularly
Protect indoors and surroundings by spraying an appropriate permethrin-based insecticide. You can sprinkle them on clothes, in the garden, and indoors. However, never allow the chemical to come in direct contact with your skin.
- Prevent the collection of water
Do not allow water to get collected in flower pots, room coolers, old tires, and gardening containers. They act as breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
Follow all the protective guidelines to prevent the occurrence of this infection. However, if you experience any warning signs, never neglect them. Seek immediate medical attention for early detection and immediate commencement of the treatment plan.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
1. How do doctors diagnose encephalitis?
Whenever they suspect encephalitis , doctors at first conduct a physical examination and take the medical history. Then, they prescribe MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or CT (computed tomography) images, spinal tap (lumbar puncture), and EEG (electroencephalogram) to obtain a detailed picture of your medical condition and arrive at a correct diagnosis. In some rare cases, when encephalitis symptoms worsen even after the commencement of treatment, doctors may also advise a brain biopsy.
2. What is supportive care for hospitalized encephalitis patients?
If you experience severe symptoms for encephalitis, doctors may advise immediate hospitalization. In such cases, patients may require supportive care, including breathing assistance, intravenous fluids, anticonvulsant medications for preventing seizures, and anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce swelling. These therapies help in the speedy recovery.
3. What are the tips for protecting children against encephalitis?
You can protect babies and small kids from encephalitis by assisting them in applying mosquito repellent, covering their body with protective clothing, avoiding going outdoors at dawn and dusk, and washing their hands with soap and water whenever they come from outdoor locations and after visiting the toilet.
Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment.