Encephalitis is a rare condition involving inflammation of the brain tissue usually caused by infection. The condition affects only about one in 200,000 people however it can cause severe symptoms including personality changes, seizures, weakness, and other symptoms depending on the part of the brain that is affected by the condition.
Children and the elderly are at a higher risk of developing the condition. It is usually caused by one of several viral infections; hence it is also called viral encephalitis. People with encephalitis can fully recover. The treatment and recovery depends on the virus causing the inflammation and the severity of the inflammation. In acute encephalitis, the infection directly affects the brain cells. The brain and spinal cord may also become inflamed within one to two weeks of contracting a viral or bacterial infection during para-infectious encephalitis.
Viral encephalitis can be caused by infections including influenza, measles, herpes simplex , mumps, rubella, rabies, and chickenpox. Herpes-related encephalitis can occur rapidly causing seizures or mental changes even leading to coma or death. It occurs when the herpes simplex type 1 virus travels to the brain rather than moving through the body to the surface of the skin and producing its more common symptom, a cold sore. Herpes simplex type 1 virus is one of the more common and serious causes of viral encephalitis. Early recognition and treatment of herpes encephalitis can reduce the risk for life.
Arbovirus encephalitis is another form of viral encephalitis caused by various viruses that are carried by insects such mosquitoes and ticks. This form of the disorder is seasonal, occurring primarily in summer and early fall, and are more prone in specific regions. In rare cases, bacterial, fungal, parasitic, or rickettsial infections cause encephalitis.
Prevention of viral infections is the primary way to prevent viral encephalitis. Elimination of several viral infections through vaccines reduces the occurrence of encephalitis, especially in children. Vaccines have been developed for high-risk areas as well. Another common way to avoid the condition is to avoid viruses that can lead to the disease and to avoid mosquito and tick bites.
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