What is encephalitis?

Encephalitis is a general term for inflammation of the brain. This inflammation can be due to many things, but perhaps the most common cause of encephalitis is an infection, often caused by a virus.
Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain, caused by a virus or bacteria. Symptoms depend on the cause of the encephalitis, the extent of inflammation, and where in the brain it occurs; symptoms can range from mild to very serious. A mild condition may improve with rest, fluids and pain medication. People with more serious cases should get emergency medical care. Headache, loss of appetite, and a general ill feeling may be symptoms of a mild case; fever may also be present. Symptoms of severe encephalitis include:
  • Fever
  • A severe, lasting headache
  • Confusion or memory loss
  • Feeling very sleepy
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Speech or walking problems
  • Seizures
  • Personality changes
  • Weakness
  • Hallucinations
  • Stiff neck
  • Coma In babies or young children, symptoms of encephalitis include ongoing crying, loss of interest in feeding, and a stiff body. They may also have swelling or bulging at the soft spots in their head.

Continue Learning about Viral Infections

Viral Infections

Viral Infections

Viral infections like herpes simplex, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), chicken pox and rotavirus are infections caused by a virus instead of a bacterium. Viral infections do not respond to antibiotics, but some specific viruses ...

like influenza A and B can be treated with certain antiviral medications. Most commonly, treatment for viral infections includes drinking lots of fluids, getting rest, eating well and letting the illness run its course.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.