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Home > Blog > Raising Awareness: World Encephalitis Day 2023

Raising Awareness: World Encephalitis Day 2023

Raising Awareness: World Encephalitis Day 2023

Max Lab

Feb 21, 2023

World Encephalitis Day is a global awareness day in which people affected by encephalitis come together to talk about the issue, helping to save lives and build better futures. Established in 2014 by the Encephalitis Society in the UK, World Encephalitis Day aims to raise awareness about encephalitis. The Encephalitis Society team, including volunteers and supporters from all over the world, is doing its best to make this year's awareness campaign as successful as possible through events, social media, and other channels.

What is Encephalitis?

Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain, affecting about 500,000 people every year. It is a serious and rare condition caused by the immune system or a viral infection that starts attacking brain tissue. Encephalitis can affect anyone from any age group but generally happens to younger people. In many countries, it is more common than other brain issues like multiple sclerosis, neuron disease, cerebral palsy, and bacterial meningitis. Today, around 70 per cent of people worldwide do not have any idea about encephalitis. World Encephalitis Day 2023 is designed with the aim to raise awareness of encephalitis among people.

Causes of Encephalitis

Encephalitis is caused by different viruses and bacteria. Also, it can occur when the immune system reacts to a previous infection and mistakenly attacks brain tissue. There are three major categories of viruses that can lead to:

Primary Encephalitis

  • Common viruses that include Epstein-Barr virus and herpes simplex virus (HSV)
  • Childhood viruses are chicken pox (very rare), rubella, measles, and mumps
  • Arboviruses are carried by insects like mosquitoes and ticks

Secondary Encephalitis

This condition is often a complication of a viral infection, resulting from a defective immune system reacting to an infection in the body. In this case, the immune system starts mistakenly attacking healthy cells in the brain rather than attacking cells causing the infection. Secondary encephalitis is also known as post-infection encephalitis, which occurs 15 – 20 days after the initial infection.

Encephalitis Symptoms

Most infections of viral encephalitis do not cause symptoms. Symptoms may start slowly and may be similar to the flu. The common symptoms of encephalitis could be mild to severe. These include:

  • Headaches
  • Fever
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Weakness in one or more parts of the body
  • Bulging soft spots in infants
  • Difficulty speaking or moving
  • Memory issues
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Seizures
  • Irritability or emotional outbursts

Risk Factors

People from any age group can be infected with encephalitis. However, the following people are at higher risk:

  • Elderly people
  • People with weak immune systems
  • Children
  • Those living in areas where ticks and mosquitoes are very common

How is Encephalitis Diagnosed?

The doctors and healthcare providers may perform a physical check-up, order some tests and discuss the health record of the patient. The person may be asked about recent cases of cold, flu, gastrointestinal disorder, respiratory illnesses, and vaccinations. The doctor may also ask whether an individual had a tick bite recently, travelled to specific countries, or has been around pets, etc.

Tests for Encephalitis can include: -

  • Blood tests to look for bacteria or viruses
  • Neuroimaging tests, including CT scans and MRI
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG) to check for seizures or particular patterns of electrical movement in the brain
  • Urine and stool tests to classify organisms or antibodies that cause infection
  • A spinal tap or lumbar puncture test to check for symptoms in the brain or spinal cord

In some rare cases, the biopsy (brain tissue sample collection) may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis in cases where encephalitis treatment is not working and symptoms are getting worse.

Treatments for Encephalitis

Early detection and an effective treatment plan for encephalitis cause are two major factors for patients to survive encephalitis. The treatment plan for viral encephalitis may include: 

  • Pain medications
  • Proper rest
  • Warm sponge baths
  • Corticosteroids (to ease brain swelling)
  • Anticonvulsants (to stop seizures)
  • Mechanical ventilation (to aid with breathing)
  • Sedatives (for anxiety and aggressiveness)
  • Fluids (often through an IV)

The condition requires hospitalization in many complicated cases. The treatment plan will mainly depend on the age and condition of the patient and the cause and type of encephalitis. Those with brain swelling and seizures may need a special treatment plan and hospitalization.

Complications

Complications due to encephalitis can lead to:

  • Epilepsy
  • Loss of memory
  • Physical weakness
  • Behavioural or personality changes
  • Intellectual disability
  • Vision or hearing problems
  • Speaking issues
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lack of muscle coordination

With proper care and the right treatment plan, most people get well from encephalitis. One can reduce their risk of developing encephalitis by getting vaccinated against encephalitis-causing viruses. If an individual experiences any symptoms related to encephalitis, it is vital to consult a doctor immediately.

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