In milder cases, symptoms may resemble the flu. In severe cases of encephalitis, symptoms may include some or all of the following:

Behavioral and personality changes              Coma
Confusion or disorientation                            Difficulty swallowing or breathing
Extreme fatigue                                              Fever
Headache                                                       Inability to emote
Lack of concentration                                     Lethargy and reduced consciousness
Loss of consciousness                                    Memory loss
Muscle weakness                                            Partial paralysis
Rash                                                                Sensitivity to light
Seizures                                                           Speech, hearing and vision problems
Stiff neck and back                                          Tingling and numbness


Encephalitis, regardless of its source, produces similar symptoms and is often difficult to differentiate. If a doctor suspects encephalitis, the antiviral acyclovir should be administered until the cause can be determined. Herpes simplex, one of the common causes of encephalitis, is responsive to acyclovir. With the other most common cause, the arboviruses, symptoms can be managed, but no treatment is available.

Blood tests – Blood tests may be used to test for arbovirus infections.

Brain biopsy – In rare cases, a doctor surgically removes tiny brain tissues to test for the presence of a virus. Rabies is the most common type of encephalitis that calls for brain biopsy.

Imaging – Scanning techniques, such as CTs or MRIs, are commonly the first step in diagnosis. Although not all patients’ scans will reveal the damage, many will show the extent of the inflammation in the brain. Most doctors choose an MRI over a CT because they are more reliable in differentiating if the source is the herpes virus.

An electroencephalogram (EEG) may reveal temporal lobe abnormalities. These also indicate herpes simplex encephalitis.

Spinal Tap – A spinal tap involves taking a sample of cerebrospinal fluid from the patient's lower back. Results from the fluid are helpful in determining the virus, including herpes simplex, Epstein-Barr, varicella-zoster, enteroviruses, Japanese encephalitis and West Nile.

FACES 2011 Ponte Vedra, FL

FACES 2011 Ponte Vedra, FL