What are the signs and symptoms of encephalitis and meningitis?

The hallmark signs of meningitis are a sudden fever, a severe headache, and a stiff neck. Encephalitis is characterized by seizures, stupor, coma, and related neurological signs. In more severe cases, neurological symptoms may include nausea and vomiting, confusion and disorientation, drowsiness, sensitivity to bright light, and poor appetite.

Meningitis often appears with flulike symptoms that develop over one to two days. Distinctive rashes are typically seen in some forms of the disease. Meningococcal meningitis may be associated with kidney and adrenal gland failure and shock.

Patients with encephalitis often show mild flulike symptoms. In more severe cases, patients may experience problems with speech or hearing, double vision, hallucinations, personality changes, loss of consciousness, loss of sensation in some parts of the body, muscle weakness, partial paralysis in the arms and legs, sudden severe dementia, impaired judgment, seizures, and memory loss.

Important signs of encephalitis to watch out for in an infant include vomiting, body stiffness, constant crying that may become worse when the child is picked up, and a full or bulging fontanel (the soft spot on the top of the head).

This answer is based on source information from The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes.

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