Infectious Diseases

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Encephalitis

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What is encephalitis?

Encephalitis is an acute inflammatory disease involving parts of the brain, spinal cord and meninges caused by viruses as well as bacteria, fungi, and protozoa.

How is it spread?

As this inflammatory disease is caused by many organisms, its spread is dependent on the cause.

What are the symptoms?

Often people with viral encephalitis infections have no symptoms. In mild cases symptoms often occur as fever and headache. Severe cases are usually marked by sudden onset, with headache, high fever, meningeal signs, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, occasional convulsions and spastic paralysis.

In post-infectious encephalitis, individuals may be confused, have seizures, headaches, stiffness of the neck and fever; trouble moving their legs and arms.

Most people recover fully, however, spinal involvement may lead to paraplegia or quadriplegia.

How soon do symptoms of encephalitis appear?

It depends on the organism causing the disease. For primary viral encephalitis, the symptoms may start 5-15 days.

How is encephalitis diagnosed?

Your health care provider will order laboratory testing to assist in determining the type of organism causing your symptoms.

What is the treatment for encephalitis?

Your health care provider will provide supportive treatment based on your symptoms.

How do I protect myself and others?

The following are helpful in preventing the spread of any illness:

  • Cover mouth and nose when coughing and/or sneezing.
  • Do not drink from the same glass, water bottle, cup, straw or pop can as others.
  • Do not share cigarettes.
  • Wash hands well after coughs, sneezes, going to the washroom and before food preparation. This is important because hand to mouth contact is a common way of spreading many infections.

Are there any special concerns about encephalitis?

It is recommended that you seek medical attention if symptoms of encephalitis develop.

For data on the incidence of Meningitis in Simcoe Muskoka and Ontario, please visit the Encephalitis/Meningitis page on the health unit’s HealthSTATS site

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