Viral encephalitis

Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain. Most often, it is caused by one of several different viruses. The most common are the herpes viruses, childhood viruses such as measles, and viruses you get through a mosquito bite.

There are two types of encephalitis -- primary and secondary. In primary encephalitis, a virus attacks the brain and spinal cord directly. In secondary or postinfectious encephalitis, the virus invades another part of your body and travels to your brain. The virus causes inflammation of the nerve cells (encephalitis) or the surrounding membranes (meningitis). Encephalitis is different from meningitis, but these two brain infections often happen together.

Most cases of encephalitis are mild and do not last long. However, in some cases encephalitis can be life-threatening. About 10,000 to 20,000 cases of encephalitis are reported each year in the United States.

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Review Date: 12/9/2014  

Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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