Symptoms of Encephalitis and Treatment
What is Encephalitis
Encephalitis is a condition of inflammation of brain due to pathogenic infection. Encephalitis in severe condition is life threatening and the mortality rate is very high in children.
Many viruses cause encephalitis in their secondary infection and include mumps virus, measles virus, rubella virus, varicella virus, HIV, polio, Hepatitis B virus, Herpes B virus, Arbovirus and Chikv. All these viruses first infect other parts of the body and later through blood reach brain and cause encephalitis.
Japanese encephalitis (JE) virus which belongs to genus flavivirus, causes encephalitis in primary infection – this disease is called Japanese encephalitis.
Modes of Infection
Since encephalitis is caused by many types of viruses, modes of infection also are different. Some of these spread by contaminated food and water, direct contact, air, sexual contact and some others by insect bite.
Japanese Encephalitis virus is typically transmitted by the bite of female Culex mosquito. This virus generally exists in the blood of migratory birds and hence sudden outbreak occurs in rural areas in winters. The virus is not only transferred to humans but also through to the pigs by mosquitoes. Hence pigs and migratory birds act as reservoirs to the virus.
The virus first infects the brain cells and gradually destroys them. The inflammation actually results due to the action of our immune system on the virus infected brain cells. Since brain controls many voluntary activities, its inflammation results in severe disturbances in the coordination system.
Symptoms of Encephalitis
- The symptoms are mild in the beginning which include headache, fever, weakness, nausea, vomiting.
- The symptoms turn severe within a short period of time and hence the mortality rate is very high.
- The symptoms also include tremors, seizures, stiff neck and loss of vision. In the later stages the person enters the state of coma and dies.
Diagnosis of Encephalitis
Encephalitis is diagnosed by different methods which include;
- Blood test in which anti – bodies against the pathogen are identified.
- Spinal tap / lumbar puncture in which the cerebro spinal fluid is collected by a microscopic needle to check virus.
- Electroencephalogram graph, used to record the electro activity of the brain and any abnormality detected indicates viral infection.
- Imaging: This involves identification of any abnormal structure using the techniques like X-ray and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
Without prompt access to the treatment encephalitis results in 70 – 80% of the deaths. With access to treatment death rate can be reduces to 15-20%. The important anti – viral medicines used include Acyclovir, Ganciclovir, Forcarnet and Azidothymidine (AZT). Corticosteroids are administered to bring down the inflammation of the brain.
Preventive Measures for Encephalitis
- Most important measure is administration of vaccines against disease for which they are available. These include oral polio vaccine, MMR vaccine, Hepatitis B vaccine, Japanese Encephalitis vaccine is also available and should be taken by those who are in risk of getting infected with virus.
- Maintain personal health hygiene which involves the practice of regular systemic hand washing.
- Contaminated food and water should be avoided.
- Drinking water should be boiled, cooled and filtered before use.
- Protection against mosquito bite is another important preventive measure which involves the use of mosquito nets, repellants etc.
- The breeding grounds for mosquito like stagnant water bodies should be removed.
- The spread of Japanese Encephalitis is controlled by killing the pigs that act as natural reservoirs for Japanese Encephalitis virus.