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World Encephalitis Day 2022


Author: Sara Westwood

Clinical Negligence

Encephalitis is a devastating brain condition which affects 500,000 people each year.

It’s World Encephalitis Day, an awareness day led by The Encephalitis Society to help raise global understanding of the condition which affects around 6,000 people in the UK each year and over half a million worldwide. Encephalitis is commonly misdiagnosed due to the overlap of symptoms with other health conditions. In this article, our medical negligence expert, Sara Westwood explores encephalitis, its causes, symptoms, treatment and recovery.

What is encephalitis

Encephalitis is a rare but serious condition that causes inflammation of the brain. Symptoms include:

  • A flu-like illness/fever
  • Headaches
  • Seizures or fits
  • Changes to character or behaviour
  • Inability to speak
  • Loss of consciousness

This can be a life-threatening illness and can affect anyone, at any age. Without urgent treatment, the death rate is high, and survivors can be left with life-changing acquired brain injuries.

There are two types of encephalitis:

  • Primary – a virus infects the brain and spinal cord directly
  • Secondary – an infection develops elsewhere in the body and then attacks the brain

What causes encephalitis?

Encephalitis is most commonly caused by a virus. Many of the infections associated with the condition are quite common and are usually mild, however, in rare cases can lead to encephalitis.

Causes include:

  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Herpes Simplex
  • Varicella-Zoster Virus – causes chickenpox and shingles
  • Measle, Mumps and Rubella viruses
  • Animal-spread viruses – mosquitoes, ticks and rabies

Other infectious microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi and parasites can also cause encephalitis, though rarely.

Diagnosis of encephalitis

The early indications of encephalitis are often mild but become more serious over time. Symptoms can vary, depending on the type of encephalitis. Infectious encephalitis can often present as a high temperature, headaches and nausea, whilst autoimmune encephalitis symptoms include hallucinations and confusion. Once the brain has become infected, the condition can quickly deteriorate and the person infected can experience seizures or a loss of consciousness.

The symptoms of encephalitis are similar to a number of possible conditions so several tests may be needed to diagnose it. To avoid any delays in diagnosis, investigations such as a lumbar puncture, a CT or MRI scan and blood tests should be conducted as soon as possible.


The earlier encephalitis is treated, the more likely it is for the person to recover. It needs to be treated urgently to tackle the underlying cause, relieve symptoms and support bodily functions. Treatments include antiviral medicine, steroid injections, immunoglobulin therapy, surgery and antibiotics.

How can we help you?

You may be entitled to bring a claim for compensation if there has been a negligent delay in diagnosis or inappropriate medical care.

Hatch Brenner has specialist brain injury and medical negligence solicitors, who are accredited by the AvMA and Law Society panels, who can investigate your claim and help secure compensation.

If you would like to pursue a claim and would like a free initial consultation to discuss prospects, contact Sara Westwood who would be happy to help, email sarawestwood@hathcbrenner.co.uk or call 01603 660811.

Sara Westwood, Partner and Medical Negligence Expert at Hatch Brenner Solicitors in Norwich

Sara Westwood, Partner and Clinical Negligence expert solicitor

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