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What is viral encephalitis?

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Quick Answer

Viral encephalitis is a condition that results in inflammation of the brain, commonly caused by a viral infection, according to PDRhealth. Bacteria, viruses and fungi resulting from an infection cause the immune system to attack the brain, ultimately causing encephalitis.

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Full Answer

Viral encephalitis produces flu-like symptoms that may include severe headaches and fever, explains Mayo Clinic. Some patients may also experience problems with movement or senses, confused thinking and seizures. Although viral encephalitis is a serious condition that requires medical attention, only rare cases are life-threatening. The course of the condition is often unpredictable, which is why early diagnosis is recommended.

Viruses that can cause encephalitis include the herpes simplex virus, which commonly produces fever blisters and cold sores around the mouth and genital herpes, states Mayo Clinic. Viruses such as enteroviruses and mosquito-borne viruses can also produce infections that lead to encephalitis.

Mild cases of viral encephalitis focus on treating the flu-like symptoms with fluids, rest and anti-inflammatory drugs to minimize the pain of fever and headaches, notes Mayo Clinic. Physicians may also prescribe antiviral drugs to eliminate the bacteria causing the infection. People with severe viral encephalitis may require anticonvulsant medications to prevent seizures, breathing treatments and intravenous fluids.

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