Encephalitis and Meningitis
Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
- Encephalitis and meningitis facts
- What is encephalitis?
- What causes encephalitis?
- What are encephalitis symptoms and signs?
- Is encephalitis contagious?
- Is it possible to prevent encephalitis? Is there an encphalitis vaccine?
- What is meningitis?
- What causes meningitis?
- What are meningitis symptoms and signs?
- What is encephalomyelitis?
- How are encephalitis and meningitis diagnosed?
- What is the treatment of encephalitis and meningitis?
- What is the prognosis (outlook), and what are the complications for patients with encephalitis or meningitis?
- Is meningitis contagious?
- Is it possible to prevent meningitis? Is there a meningitis vaccine?
- Take the Meningitis Quiz
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- Meningitis FAQs
Encephalitis and meningitis facts
- Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain.
- Meningitis is inflammation of the membranes (called meninges) that surround the brain and spinal cord.
- Both encephalitis and meningitis can be caused by bacteria or viruses, and rarely a fungus, or be noninfectious.
- Headache and fever are the most common symptoms of encephalitis and meningitis. Stiff neck, confusion, or lethargy can also be present.
- The diagnosis is usually made by performing a lumbar puncture (spinal tap).
- A CT scan or MRI of the brain can also be helpful but usually is only done in addition to the spinal tap.
- Treatment depends on identifying the underlying cause. If bacteria are causing the infection, then antibiotics are indicated.
- Anyone experiencing symptoms of encephalitis or meningitis should see a doctor immediately.
- Depending on the organism causing the infection, close contacts can also get sick and need to be evaluated by a health-care professional.
- Basic methods that help to prevent the spread of infections (hand washing and covering ones mouth when coughing) can also help prevent the spread of some forms of meningitis.
- Being up to date on vaccinations will help prevent certain forms of meningitis.
What is encephalitis?
Encephalitis is brain inflammation.
What causes encephalitis?
Encephalitis is a rare condition that is most often caused by viruses. It can also be caused by noninfectious diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus and Behçet's disease. The leading cause of severe encephalitis is the herpes simplex virus. Other causes include enterovirus infections or mosquito-borne viruses. The very young and the elderly are more likely to have more severe encephalitis.
Exposure to viruses can occur through breathing in respiratory droplets from infected people, certain insect bites, and direct skin contact.
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