Encephalitis is an inflammation of brain tissues mostly due to viral infection. It begins with flu-like symptoms such as fever or headache and leads to severe illness. Sometimes it starts with flu-like symptoms and ends with no symptoms at all. Therefore, it should be diagnosed early, you have severe flu-like symptoms. Encephalitis at its late-stage may cause seizures, problems in hearing, and problems in body movements. It is a life-threatening condition of the brain, though it is rare.
Children, adults, and the people who are immunocompromised are the high risks of getting this disease. No particular species of the virus cause it, but it may be caused by several virus infections, therefore, it is also termed as “VIRAL ENCEPHALITIS“.
In acute encephalitis, the viral infection directly affects the brain cells. While in para-infectious encephalitis, the brain and spinal cord both become inflamed within one to two weeks after exposing a viral or bacterial infection.
Types of Encephalitis
There are two most important types of encephalitis according to their mechanism of occurrence. They are
In this type, the virus enters the body and directly infects the brain and may spread to other body parts. Sometimes it remains dormant in brain cells and causes infection when it is reactivated.
This type of encephalitis occurs due to other viral infections on the other side of the body due to defective immune system. When the immune system attacks the cells having an infection, it mistakenly attacks the normals body cells of the brain too. Therefore, it is also called as Post-infection encephalitis.
What Causes Encephalitis?
The exact cause of encephalitis is not known yet, but the virus is considered the most common cause of it. The most common type of viruses that can cause encephalitis are influenza virus, herpes simplex virus (HSV), measles, mumps, rubella, rabies, chickenpox, and arbovirus. People already having any viral infection or body illness are at a high risk of getting this viral encephalitis.
Herpes Simplex Virus
It is one of the most common causative agents that causes serious brain illness. It acts rapidly and causes seizures, other mental changes that may lead to causes come and death. Early treatment of HSV can prevent this herpes-related encephalitis and you may have just cold sores.
This class of viruses includes the poliovirus and the coxsackievirus. These viruses usually cause flu-like symptoms, eye inflammatory changes, and abdominal pain.
Infection from Rabies virus usually transmitted by the bite of infected animals especially dogs. This infection causes encephalitis rapidly once symptoms begin to show. Rabies is a rare cause of encephalitis in the US.
Signs and Symptoms of Encephalitis
Viral encephalitis usually starts with flu-like symptoms such as
- Body weakness
As the infection progress to brain cells and start the destroy then, the following signs and symptoms begin to appear. These are
- An altered state of mind
- Problems with hearing
- Body stiffness
- Muscle weakness
There are a checklist of some factors that can cause this brain infection such as
- Age (children, adults)
- Immunocompromised patients (HIV patients)
- Geographical regions (those have malaria pandemic)
- Season of the year especially summer (When mosquitoes are at the greater number)
Treatment of encephalitis is symptomatic. Every symptom is controlled with its medicine along with the IV fluids.
- Antivirals are proven to be effective against viral encephalitis. The most important and effective antiviral is ACYCLOVIR.
- Corticosteroids are also prescribed to reduce brain inflammation, especially after the secondary encephalitis.
- If the patient has seizures, anticonvulsants are given to the patients.
- Sedatives are given to the irritable, restlessness patients often.
What Complications May Occur With The Encephalitis?
Encephalitis may cause serious complications if you left it untreated or you start your treatment late. As it is the disease of brain cells, therefore, try to avoid complications by following the proper treatment. Complications depend upon the age of the patient, type of infectious organism, the severity of the infection, and the time from onset of disease to treatment. These factors are very helpful in determining the complications of encephalitis that a patient may have.
Anyhow, the following complications may occur if you don’t have any particular treatment of encephalitis.
- As the brain cells are inflamed, it may cause come or death even.
- It may cause Persistent fatigue in such patients due to a lack of muscle coordination.
- Body Weakness may occur.
- You may have memory problems due to damaged neurons.
- Personality changes may have due to loss of coordination mechanism.
- Paralysis of any side
- Hearing or vision defects due to certain viruses.
- Speech impairments.
How It Can Be Prevented?
Though it is a rare, life-threatening condition it can be prevented by taking some precautionary measures that avoid exposure to the viruses that can cause the disease.
You should try to
Keep practicing good hygiene.
Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water, especially after using the toilet and before and after meals. It will rinse off infected organisms and keep them healthy and strong.
Don’t share utensils.
Don’t share tableware and beverages because of most infections transmitted by airborne droplets.
Teach good habits.
Teach your children good habits, as it may help them in their next life too. Make sure they practice good hygiene and avoid sharing utensils at home and school Get vaccinations.
Complete the vaccination course for your children according to the EPI schedule. Keep your own and your children current, when you are on go.
Before traveling, talk to your healthcare provider about recommended vaccinations for different destinations to keep safe and healthy.
HP Thoughts: Did you know about a virus caused by a rodent bite? Is it possible to develop serious brain ailments arising from this attack? Learn more about this menace — Hantavirus.