Encephalitis may be caused by three types of viruses including herpes viruses, viruses transmitted by insects and childhood infection viruses. More specifically, encephalitis may be a result of herpes simplex, chickenpox and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection, but also West Nile virus infection. Certain germs can also provoke this condition, including those responsible for Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease. In rare cases mumps, measles and German measles may also be identified as causes of encephalitis.
This condition may be contagious, depending on its cause. Infection caused by West Nile virus cannot be transmitted among humans, since this virus is carried by insects only. However, viral infection with EBV is contagious and you can get it staying in contact with an infected person.
Patients suffering from encephalitis experience inflammation, irritation and swelling of the brain. Because of that, they can suffer from high fever, serious headaches, lack of energy and appetite, as well as general weakness. Severe encephalitis may lead to light sensitivity (also known as photophobia) and the affected person may experience light as hurtful for his/her eyes. Some people complain about nauseous feeling and vomiting, sleepiness, confusion, problems with walking and sometimes even unconsciousness or seizures. Encephalitis patients may also notice stiffness in the neck.
Encephalitis diagnosis requires blood and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples. A person needs to have the procedure known as lumbar puncture or spinal tap in order to provide CFS samples. These samples will be sent to the lab and tested for bacteria and viruses. Additionally, your doctor may need brain scans (MRI magnetic resonance imaging or CT computed tomography) or electroencephalogram (EEG) to properly diagnose your condition.
Try to avoid infections that might cause encephalitis in order to prevent this condition. Maintain good personal hygiene and always wash your hands to prevent spreading the germs which may cause encephalitis. Protect yourself from insect bites, wearing long sleeves and applying insect repellents. Balanced diet, regular exercise and plenty of rest will build strong immune system and you will be able to fight against all kinds of microorganisms, including viruses. Another option is immunization against measles and chickenpox.
Treatment and Recovery
Treatment depends on the cause of encephalitis. Many times, a person suffering from encephalitis does not need any treatment. More serious cases may be treated with antiviral medications such as acyclovir or some steroid drugs and patients might be hospitalized and closely monitored. Antibiotics do not work against viruses and, therefore, these drugs are not used in the treatment of encephalitis.
Infection usually lasts about one week, although you may need several weeks to recover properly. Some patients may experience seizures, muscle coordination impairment or even learning problems and they may need some physical or speech therapy during the recovery.