Information for Patients
Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain. Usually the cause is a viral infection, but bacteria can also cause it. It can be mild or severe. Most cases are mild. You may have flu-like symptoms. With a mild case, you may just need rest, plenty of fluids, and a pain reliever.
Severe cases need immediate treatment. Symptoms of severe cases include
- Severe headache
- Sudden fever
In babies, additional symptoms may include constant crying, poor feeding, body stiffness, and bulging in the soft spots of the skull.
Severe cases may require a stay in the hospital. Treatments include oral and intravenous (IV) medicines to reduce inflammation and treat infection. Patients with breathing difficulties may need artificial respiration. Some people may need physical, speech, and occupational therapy once the illness is under control.
NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
West Nile Virus
West Nile virus (WNV) is an infectious disease that first appeared in the United States in 1999. Infected mosquitoes spread the virus that causes it. People who get WNV usually have no symptoms or mild symptoms. The symptoms include a fever, headache, body aches, skin rash, and swollen lymph glands. They can last a few days to several weeks, and usually go away on their own.
If West Nile virus enters the brain, however, it can be life-threatening. It may cause inflammation of the brain, called encephalitis, or inflammation of the tissue that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, called meningitis. A physical exam, medical history, and laboratory tests can diagnose it.
Older people and those with weakened immune systems are most at risk. There are no specific vaccines or treatments for human WNV disease. The best way to avoid WNV is to prevent mosquito bites:
- Use insect repellent
- Get rid of mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water from flower pots, buckets or barrels
- Stay indoors between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active
- Use screens on windows to keep mosquitoes out