Chapter: Diseases of The Brain and Nervous System(A Health Education Guide): Infectious diseases of the brain

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Viral Encephalitis and its Diagnosis

This is an extremely fast spreading disease in which the patient gets fever, headache, sudden behavioural changes, depression, photophobia... and then gradually seizures or paralysis or loss of consciousness.

Viral Encephalitis :

 

This is an extremely fast spreading disease in which the patient gets fever, headache, sudden behavioural changes, depression, photophobia... and then gradually seizures or paralysis or loss of consciousness. This disease quickly damages the cells of the brain and many times leaves residual damage in the body, like memory loss, seizures or behavioral changes.

If mumps virus, herpes simplex virus, (HSV-1) arbovirus and sometimes, vericella, Epstein B arr, entero virus enter the brain for any reason, they can cause viral encephalitis. The AIDS virus can also cause encephalitis. Sometimes, the virus affects only the membranes of the brain causing viral meningitis, which is not a very serious disease in comparison.

Such viral diseases can be extremely dangerous, like in the USA 10 to 40% of the patients suffering from Herpes encephalitis die. And the same percentage suffers from the disabilities mentioned earlier.


Diagnosis :

CSF report shows increase in protein levels, sugar is almost normal and lymphocytes are more. Immunological tests like CSF-HSV test or sometimes CSF-PCR test can confirm the presence of virus.

If required, in certain cases M.R.I or C.T.Scan or E.E.G. may be done.

If the disease is diagnosed in the initial stage, immediate treatment can save life and disabilities, e.g. in Herpes Encephalitis, acyclovir (zovirax, vir) injections are used. Like all medicines, the doctor determines the exact dosage and the duration of the medicine. There are not many side effects of this medicine, but caution should still be exercised.

Besides this, virus like C.M.V. and many other such viruses can affect the brain in one way or the other which are not mentioned here due to the lack of space. Similarly, there are some other viruses affecting the brain, they are called slow virus, and they destroy the brain cells slowly, in months and years. They are S.S.P.E. (SubacuteSclerosing Pan Encephalitis), CreutzfeldtJakob etc. Unfortunately no medicines are available for these. Medicines which are available are hardly effective and in most of the cases the patient is pushed to the brink of death.

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