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World Encephalitis Day

22 Feb 2018

World Encephalitis Day aims to raise awareness of this illness, which causes brain inflammation and affects 6,000 people a year in the UK and has a high mortality rate.

Symptoms of Encephalitis

Infectious encephalitis usually begins with a ‘flu-like illness’ or a headache. Typically more serious symptoms follow hours to days, or sometimes weeks later. The most serious finding is an alteration in the level of consciousness. This can range from mild confusion or drowsiness to loss of consciousness and coma. Other symptoms include a high temperature, seizures (fits), aversion to bright lights, inability to speak or control movement, sensory changes, neck stiffness or uncharacteristic behaviour.

Autoimmune encephalitis often has a longer onset. Symptoms will vary depending on the type of encephalitis related antibody but may include: confusion, altered personality or behaviour, psychosis, movement disorders, seizures, hallucinations, memory loss, or sleep disturbances.

WHAT IS ENCEPHALITIS?

Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain. It is caused either by an infection invading the brain (infectious encephalitis) or through the immune system attacking the brain in error (post-infectious or autoimmune encephalitis).

Anyone at any age can get encephalitis. There are up to 6,000 cases in the UK each year and potentially hundreds of thousands worldwide. In the USA there were approximately 250,000 patients admitted to hospital with a diagnosis of encephalitis in the last decade.

CAUSES OF ENCEPHALITIS?

The inflammation is caused either by an infection invading the brain (infectious encephalitis) or through the immune system attacking the brain in error (post-infectious or autoimmune encephalitis). Viruses are the most frequently identified cause of infectious encephalitis (e.g. herpes viruses, enteroviruses, West Nile, Japanese encephalitis, La Crosse, St. Louis, Western equine, Eastern equine viruses and tick-borne viruses). Any virus has the potential to produce encephalitis, but not everybody who is infected with these viruses will develop encephalitis. Very rarely, bacteria, fungus or parasites can also cause encephalitis.

SYMPTOMS OF ENCEPHALITIS

Infectious encephalitis usually begins with a ‘flu-like illness’ or a headache. Typically more serious symptoms follow hours to days, or sometimes weeks later. The most serious finding is an alteration in the level of consciousness. This can range from mild confusion or drowsiness to loss of consciousness and coma. Other symptoms include a high temperature, seizures (fits), aversion to bright lights, inability to speak or control movement, sensory changes, neck stiffness or uncharacteristic behaviour.

Autoimmune encephalitis often has a longer onset. Symptoms will vary depending on the type of encephalitis related antibody but may include: confusion, altered personality or behaviour, psychosis, movement disorders, seizures, hallucinations, memory loss, or sleep disturbances.

DIAGNOSIS OF ENCEPHALITIS

Symptoms alone often do not allow sufficient ability to distinguish between the many diseases that can mimic encephalitis. Therefore, doctors perform a variety of hospital tests –  it is important that investigations are carried out as soon as possible as prompt diagnosis reduces mortality and improves the outcomes.

 

With increasing numbers of people travelling worldwide, it is important to highlight the risk of infectious encephalitis which can be spread by mosquitoes (Japanese encephalitis ), ticks (Tick-borne encephalitis,) or other animals (Rabies).

If you are concerned about travelling to an area with the possibility of encephalitis infection, please visit our country vaccination guide for specific advice on your destination.

Information from The Encephalitis Society 

 

 

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