Also known as: viral encephalitis
What is encephalitis?
Encephalitis is a rare inflammation of the brain, which has a number of causes.
What causes encephalitis?
Causes may vary depending on the season, and the geographic part of the country. Not infrequently no cause can be found.
There are two main types of encephalitis:
- Primary encephalitis, where a virus directly infects the brain. The most common cause of encephalitis are viruses, (many vaccines have reduced the number of children affected by the measles, mumps, rubella, and chickenpox viruses); frequently carried by mosquitoes (e.g. Zika, Chikungunya and West Nile virus), and occasionally other animals (e.g. Rabies). Encephalitis after a bacterial infection (e.g. Lyme disease) or parasitic infections (toxoplasmosis) carried by cats also occurs. In some children the cause is never found.
- Secondary encephalitis, where a child's immune system doesn't recognize the child's own cells and attacks them instead of attacking an infecting organism.
What are the symptoms of encephalitis?
Symptoms may include, a preceding flu-like or gastrointestinal disturbance followed by/with fever, headache, light sensitivity, sleepiness or irritability, difficulties with talking and walking, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, confusion and seizures, and in infants a “full” or “bulging fontanelle.”
What are encephalitis care options?
Early diagnosis and management is important. Treatment will depend on the cause, how serious the disease, and in general will involve medications to control the infection, fever, seizures and to control an increase in pressure in the head if present. Sometimes a child might need help breathing with a machine (ventilator). Some severe cases of encephalitis can be managed with antiviral drugs in hospital. Milder situations may only need require supportive, rest, fluids and over-the-counter pain relievers. Following recovery, physiotherapy, occupational and speech therapy may enhance full muscle and other system recovery.
Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP
This page was last updated on: 6/12/2018 9:42:57 AM
This class is offered to parents and caregivers of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Learn more and register
Join us for a Facebook Live event! The webinar will explore epilepsy treatment options including medications, surgeries and therapies, provide advice on how to choose a course of treatment and will include a live Q&A session. Join Patricia Dean, Aileen Marie Rodriguez, Drs. Ian Miller and Marytery Fajardo.
Learn more and register
From the Newsdesk
Prevent drowning and accidents when children are near water by assigning a responsible adult to wear a Water Watcher Badge. The badge wearer takes responsibility to supervise the children until hading off to the next water watcher. Available at selected urgent care centers while supplies last.
On this very same day nine years ago, Daniella Alvarez was diagnosed Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumor (ATRT), a rare and aggressive type of brain cancer. The news came on June 26, 2009, her second birthday. Daniella endured years of brain surgeries, aggressive chemotherapies, radiation, imaging scans, multiple visits to intensive care at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. She is now cancer free thanks to a pediatric clinical trial made possible through research funding.
Cristina Visona, MS, RD, LD/N, CSP, Clinical Dietitian of the Brain Institute, talks about creative meal planning for children that are on the ketogenic diet at the 2016 Dravet Syndrome Foundation Biennial Conference.