Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain, caused by a viral (most commonly) or bacterial infection. Among the groups of viral causes are herpes, chickenpox and the Epstein-Barr virus (the virus that causes mono). Another group includes viruses transmitted through insects, such as the mosquito-borne West Nile virus and Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, carried by ticks.
Mild cases of encephalitis have flu-like symptoms. Serious cases can cause:
- Severe headaches
- Sudden fever
Confirmed by blood test and/or spinal tap (also known as a lumbar puncture).
Treatment depends on the viral cause of the encephalitis. Some viruses can be treated with medication, including steroids to reduce swelling in the brain.
Encephalitis is treated in our Division of Pediatric Infectious Disease.