Encephalitis and Meningitis (cont.)
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.
In this Article
- 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
- View the Dementia Slideshow
- West Nile Virus Slideshow
- Meningitis FAQs
What are encephalitis symptoms and signs?
The signs and symptoms of encephalitis can range from very mild flu-like symptoms to potentially life-threatening events. Signs and symptoms of encephalitis include
- sudden fever,
- visual sensitivity to light,
- stiff neck and back,
- unsteady gait,
- loss of consciousness,
- poor responsiveness,
- muscle weakness,
- sudden severe dementia, and
- memory loss.
Anyone experiencing symptoms of encephalitis should see a doctor immediately.
Is encephalitis contagious?
Infectious forms of encephalitis are contagious. Viral and many bacterial forms of encephalitis are contagious. Several forms of bacterial encephalitis can be spread by respiratory and throat excretions. Encephalitis can also be caused by an infection in the body that spreads to the brain. Noninfectious encephalitis, such as from diseases systemic lupus erythematosus and Behçet's disease, are not contagious.
Is it possible to prevent encephalitis? Is there an encphalitis vaccine?
Basic steps to avoid spread of infections (hand washing, covering mouth when coughing, etc.) can help prevent encephalitis.
Some vaccinations for bacterial diseases can help prevent encephalitis.
What is meningitis?
Meningitis is inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord (meninges).
What causes meningitis?
Meningitis may be caused by many different viruses and bacteria. It can also be caused by diseases that can trigger inflammation of tissues of the body without infection (such as systemic lupus erythematosus and Behçet's disease).
What are meningitis symptoms and signs?
The classic signs and symptoms of meningitis are
- fever, and
- stiff neck (in adults and older children).
Symptoms of meningitis may appear suddenly and also include
- nausea and
- Changes in behavior, such as confusion, sleepiness, and difficulty waking up, are other important symptoms.
In infants, symptoms of meningitis are often much less specific and may include
- irritability or tiredness,
- poor feeding, and
Especially early in the disease, meningitis can have symptoms similar to the flu.
Some types of meningitis can be deadly if not treated promptly. Anyone experiencing symptoms of meningitis should see a doctor immediately.
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