Encephalitis and Meningitis

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Encephalitis and meningitis facts

  • Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain.
  • Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes (called meninges) that surround the brain and spinal cord.
  • Both infections can be caused by bacteria or viruses and rarely a fungus.
  • 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 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. There are many types of encephalitis, most of which are caused by infections. Most often these infections are caused by viruses. In addition to infections, encephalitis can also be caused by certain diseases that result in an inflammation of the brain.

What causes encephalitis?

Encephalitis is a rare condition that is caused most often by viruses. The leading cause of severe encephalitis is the herpes simplex virus. The very young and the elderly are more likely to have a severe case.

Exposure to viruses can occur through breathing in respiratory droplets from infected people, certain insect bites, and direct skin contact.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/4/2014

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Fungal Meningitis Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of fungal meningitis may include the following:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Photophobia (sensitivity to light)
  • Altered mental status