Encephalitis and Meningitis

  • Medical Author:
    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.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    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.

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 encephalitis 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 (meninges) that surround the brain and spinal cord.

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

  • headache,
  • fever, and
  • stiff neck (in adults and older children), and
  • eyes painful sensitivity to light (photophobia).

Symptoms of meningitis may appear suddenly and also include

  • nausea,
  • vomiting, and
  • changes in behavior, such as confusion, sleepiness, and difficulty waking up.

In infants, symptoms of meningitis are often much less specific and may include

  • irritability or tiredness,
  • poor feeding, and
  • fever.

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.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/8/2016
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