encephalitis awareness

Kerri

What is Encephalitis and Can You Spot It?

Share Button

The answer is, probably not! The tricky thing about the rare and serious condition encephalitis, in which the brain swells, is that it can look a lot like the flu [1]. It is more likely to affect the very young or very old, however, anyone can be affected. [1] Symptoms may look like the flu but do not always—if confusion or disorientation, personality or behaviour changes, difficulty speaking, muscle weakness or inability to move in some parts of the body, seizures or loss of consciousness occur, especially in the presence of flu-like symptoms, medical attention should be sought immediately. [1] Encephalitis might be caused by viruses, like herpes simplex or chicken pox, and more rarely, bacterial or fungal infections. An immune reaction in which the immune system attacks the brain causing it to become inflamed may also be the cause of encephalitis—or, the cause may not be able to be determined. [1] Encephalitis is NOT contagious, though in some areas, it may be preventable by keeping vaccines up to date including the MMR vaccine, and other travel-specific vaccines including the rabies vaccine when in areas with limited medical care access, the Japanese encephalitis vaccine for travellers visiting at-risk parts of Asia, the tick-borne encephalitis vaccine for travel in some parts of Europe (outside the UK). [1]
Encephalitis is treated similarly to many severe infections: antiviral medications, steroids to reduce swelling, immune system treatments if this is deemed to be the cause of the swelling, pain or fever reducers, seizure medications, antibiotics and anti-fungal medications, and respiratory support just as in severe flu cases, which may include need for a ventilator or oxygen [1]. Treatment depends on the severity and type of infection, and can range from days to weeks. [1] Even after the encephalitis has been treated, the symptoms may not completely go away. Some people may, with work, make a full recovery, but others may never completely recover. Some after-effects or complications of encephalitis include memory problems, personality and behavioural changes, executive function issues including issues with attention, concentration, problem solving and planning, seizures, and ongoing fatigue [1].
Most people do not know what encephalitis is, or do not know what it is until a family member or friend becomes affected. February 22 is World Encephalitis Day—and a reminder if “flu like symptoms” seem like they are too much to handle, it is time to visit A&E or call for an ambulance—it is best to be on the safe side, or receive treatment as early as possible. Those living with after-effects of encephalitis should consider wearing medical ID, especially if they experience memory loss, confusion, or seizures, for peace of mind.
 Scroll to top