What is encephalitis?

Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain tissue. The most common cause is viral infections. In rare cases it can be caused by bacteria or even fungi.

There are two main types of encephalitis: primary and secondary. Primary encephalitis occurs when a virus directly infects the brain and spinal cord. Secondary encephalitis occurs when an infection starts elsewhere in the body and then travels to your brain.

Encephalitis is a rare yet serious disease that can be life-threatening. You should call your doctor immediately if you have symptoms of encephalitis.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of encephalitis?

The symptoms of encephalitis can range from mild to severe.

Mild symptoms include:

  • fever
  • headache
  • vomiting
  • stiff neck
  • lethargy (exhaustion)

Severe symptoms include:

  • fever of 103°F (39.4°C) or higher
  • confusion
  • drowsiness
  • hallucinations
  • slower movements
  • coma
  • seizures
  • irritability
  • sensitivity to light
  • unconsciousness

Infants and young children show different symptoms. Call a doctor immediately if your child is experiencing any of the following:

  • vomiting
  • bulging fontanel (soft spot in the scalp)
  • constant crying
  • body stiffness
  • poor appetite

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About West Nile Virus

West Nile virus (WNV) is most commonly transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. You can reduce your risk of being infected with WNV by using insect repellent and wearing protective clothing to prevent mosquito bites. There are no medications to treat or vaccines to prevent WNV infection. Fortunately, most people infected with WNV will have no symptoms. About 1 in 5 people who are infected will develop a fever with other symptoms. Less than 1% of infected people develop a serious, sometimes fatal, neurologic illness.
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