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Encephalitis and Meningitis Information

"Meningitis" and "encephalitis" are two words that pop onto most people's radar screens from time to time, and usually in some scary context, like hearing of a cluster of cases in their child's school, or reading media reports of epidemics occurring nationally or internationally. While most people understand that these words mean there is some sort of infection of the nervous system, other distinctions and implications are often left unstated and, as a result, can be vague or confusing. Viral meningitis is the most common form of meningitis in the UK and is linked to a large number of viruses.The body's immune system is able to contain and defeat an infection. But if the infection passes into the blood stream.

Symptoms Symptoms of encephalitis include sudden fever, headache, vomiting, heightened sensitivity to light, stiff neck and back, confusion and impaired judgment, drowsiness, weak muscles, a clumsy and unsteady gait, and irritability. Symptoms that might require emergency treatment include loss of consciousness, seizures, muscle weakness, or sudden severe dementia. Symptoms of meningitis, which may appear suddenly, often include high fever, severe and persistent headache, stiff neck, nausea, and vomiting. The pneumococcal meningitis is the most common form of meningitis and is the most serious form of bacterial meningitis.

Approximately 6000 cases of pneumococcal meningitis are reported in the United States each year. The symptoms of meningitis are: high fever, severe headache and persistent, stiff neck, nausea and vomiting. Changes in behavior such as confusion, drowsiness, difficulty waking up, and may also occur. In infants, symptoms of meningitis may include irritability or fatigue and lack of appetite. Loss of consciousness, convulsions, muscle weakness and memory loss can also be found in patients with encephalitis. There are two types of encephalitis.

Primary encephalitis is caused by a direct viral infection of the spinal cord and brain. The infection may be focal (located in only one area) or diffuse (located in many different areas). Secondary encephalitis, also known as post-infective encephalitis, can result from complications of a current viral infection.

Secondary encephalitis that results from an immunization or earlier viral infection is known as acute disseminated encephalitis. Antibiotic and/or antiviral medications are considered urgently when the diagnosis of encephalitis or meningitis. The prognosis for encephalitis varies. Some cases are mild, short and relatively benign and patients have full recovery. Other cases are severe, and permanent impairment or death is possible.

The acute phase of encephalitis may last for 1 to 2 weeks, with gradual or sudden resolution of fever and neurological symptoms Treatment Antiviral medications may be prescribed for herpes encephalitis or other severe viral infections. Antibiotics may be prescribed for bacterial infections. Anticonvulsants are used to prevent or treat seizures.

Corticosteroids are used to reduce brain swelling and inflammation. Sedatives may be needed for irritability or restlessness. Over-the-counter medications may be used for fever and headache.

Individuals with bacterial meningitis are usually hospitalized and treated with antibiotics. Antiviral drugs may also be prescribed.

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