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What is encephalitis?

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.

Encephalitis means swelling of the brain. The brain is made up of nerves. These nerves connect with the rest of the body, sending electrical messages down the spinal cord so that the brain can control everything the body does, such as thinking, eating, moving, speaking, learning and breathing. So if there’s a problem with the brain, it can make a person very sick.

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.

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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.