COMBATING INFECTION: Closing in on clues to encephalitis

April 2003 
Volume 33  Number 4
Pages 70 - 71
  PDF Version Available!


  • Identifying signs and symptoms

  • Treatment options

  • Identifying common viral culprits


  • CHARACTERIZED BY swelling of brain tissue and surrounding meninges, encephalitis is usually triggered by a viral infection (see Identifying Common Viral Culprits ). Less-common causes include bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections; cancer; and exposure to toxins or drugs.

    The severity of encephalitis depends on the underlying cause, the patient's age and condition, and the duration of illness before treatment. People who are immunocompromised are especially vulnerable.

    Primary encephalitis indicates that a pathogen or toxin has directly attacked the brain and spinal cord. Herpes simplex and mosquito-borne viruses are most likely to trigger primary encephalitis. Secondary encephalitis is caused by an infection in another part of the body or by the body's immune response ...

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