World Encephalitis Day
World Encephalitis Day is celebrated on February 22nd every year, with the purpose of raising awareness about encephalitis as an inflammation of the brain that can be caused by viral, bacterial, or parasitic infections, or by an abnormal immune response.
The aim of this day is to educate the general public, healthcare professionals, and decision-makers about the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of encephalitis. It also aims to promote research on encephalitis and its long-term consequences, as this disease can have devastating effects on the physical and mental health of patients and their families.
Additionally, World Encephalitis Day also serves to provide support to encephalitis survivors and their families, and to create support networks and resources for them.
The term "encephalitis" was first used in 1824 by the French physician Jean-Baptiste Bouillaud, who used it to describe inflammation of the brain in patients with typhoid fever. However, the first documented case of viral encephalitis was in 1885 by the German neurologist Carl von Economo, who described the disease in patients who experienced neurological symptoms following a flu epidemic.
Putting more into context, encephalitis is known as an inflammation of the brain that can be caused by viral, bacterial, or parasitic infections, or by an abnormal immune response. The inflammation can affect the entire brain or only a specific part of it.
The symptoms of encephalitis may vary depending on the cause, severity of inflammation, and part of the brain affected, but generally include:
Confusion or changes in behavior
Sensitivity to light
Neck pain and stiffness
Nausea and vomiting
Problems with memory and concentration
Difficulties speaking or moving
Loss of consciousness
Generally, encephalitis is treated by a multidisciplinary team according to the specific needs of the patient and the underlying cause of the condition, which may include:
Neurologists: Neurologists specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the nervous system, including encephalitis.
Infectious disease specialists: Infectious disease specialists specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of infections, including those that can cause encephalitis.
Intensivists: Intensivists specialize in the treatment of critically ill patients and may be involved in the care of patients with severe encephalitis.Immunologists: Immunologists specialize in the study of the immune system and may be involved in the treatment of autoimmune encephalitis.
Neuroimmunologists: Neuroimmunologists specialize in the study of the interaction between the nervous system and the immune system, and may be involved in the treatment of autoimmune encephalitis
The diagnosis of encephalitis is made through a combination of tests, such as blood and cerebrospinal fluid analysis, computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain, and electroencephalogram (EEG). In some cases, a brain biopsy may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis.
Regarding the treatment of encephalitis, it depends on the underlying cause of the inflammation. If encephalitis is caused by a viral infection, it may be necessary to administer antivirals to reduce the viral load and decrease inflammation in the brain. In addition, treatment may include the administration of corticosteroids to reduce cerebral inflammation and control symptoms. Patients may also receive treatment to control symptoms, such as anticonvulsants to prevent seizures and analgesics to relieve pain. In severe cases, the patient may require hospitalization and intensive treatment, including care in the intensive care unit and respiratory support. However, in some cases, encephalitis can cause long-term disabilities, such as cognitive problems, seizures, and muscle weakness, so it is important to provide adequate and careful follow-up care for the patient after treatment.
Regarding the prevention of encephalitis, it depends on the underlying cause of inflammation, since most cases of encephalitis are caused by viral, bacterial, or parasitic infections. Some measures that can help prevent encephalitis include:
Vaccination: There are different types of vaccines against encephalitis, and the timing and method of administration depend on the type of vaccine. Here are some examples:
Japanese encephalitis vaccine: It is administered in two doses, with an interval of 28 days between the two doses. The first dose is recommended to be given at least one month before traveling to a Japanese encephalitis risk area, and the second dose before exposure to infected mosquitoes.
Tick-borne encephalitis vaccine: It is administered in three doses, with an interval of four weeks between the first and second dose, and an interval of six to twelve months between the second and third dose.
St. Louis encephalitis vaccine: It is administered in one or two doses, depending on the age and vaccination history of the patient.
In general, it is recommended that people traveling to areas where encephalitis is common or who have a higher risk of exposure to mosquitoes or ticks receive the corresponding vaccine. People working in high-risk professions, such as veterinarians or laboratory researchers, should also be vaccinated against encephalitis.
Avoid exposure to mosquitoes and ticks, as some types of encephalitis are transmitted by them. It is recommended to use insect repellent, protective clothing, and avoid outdoor activities during peak hours of mosquito and tick activity (the activity of mosquitoes and ticks can vary depending on geographic location and season).
Practice good hygiene habits: frequent hand washing and avoiding close contact with sick people can help prevent the spread of viral and bacterial infections.
Protect yourself from brain injuries: brain injuries can increase the risk of developing encephalitis. To prevent brain injuries, precautions should be taken when driving, using proper protective equipment during sports and outdoor activities, and avoiding falls.
Similarly, it is important to mention some care that may be required during the recovery from encephalitis, such as:
Rest: Encephalitis can cause fatigue and weakness, so it is important to rest enough to allow the body to recover.
Monitoring and control of symptoms: During the recovery, it is important to monitor and control fever, headaches, seizures, and confusion. The doctor may prescribe medication to alleviate these symptoms and control them.
Physical and occupational therapy: In some cases, encephalitis can cause muscle weakness or coordination problems. Physical and occupational therapy can help regain muscle strength and physical function.
Speech therapy: If encephalitis affects speech and language function, speech therapy can help regain these abilities
Emotional support: Encephalitis can be a traumatic illness, and it can be helpful to receive emotional support from friends, family, or a mental health professional.
It is important to follow the doctor's recommendations and attend follow-up appointments to ensure that the recovery from encephalitis is as complete as possible.
Here are a few organizations that work against encephalitis:
Encephalitis Society - A UK-based charity that provides support, information, and research funding to people affected by encephalitis.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) - A US government agency that supports research into neurological disorders, including encephalitis.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - A US government agency that works to prevent and control infectious diseases, including encephalitis.
The Autoimmune Encephalitis Alliance (AEA) is a non-profit organization based in the United States that works to raise awareness of autoimmune encephalitis (AE), a rare but potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when the body's immune system mistakenly attacks healthy brain cells.
These are just a few examples, and there may be other organizations working towards a cure for encephalitis as well.
Although encephalitis is not a common disease worldwide, it may be more prevalent in certain geographic areas depending on the underlying cause. Therefore, it is important to remember that prevention is the best way to avoid encephalitis. If you experience symptoms of encephalitis such as fever, headache, confusion, or seizures, you should seek medical attention immediately.
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2022, July 19). Encefalitis. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved February 19, 2023, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/es-es/diseases-conditions/encephalitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20356136
Escoto, M. A. (Ed.). (n.d.). Encefalitis (Para Adolescentes) - nemours kidshealth. KidsHealth. Retrieved February 19, 2023, from https://kidshealth.org/es/teens/encephalitis.html
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). El Cerebro inflamado: Reconocer la encefalitis y la meningitis. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved February 19, 2023, from https://salud.nih.gov/articulo/reconocer-la-encefalitis-y-la-meningitis/
La vacuna Contra la encefalitis japonesa: Lo que usted necesita saber. HealthyChildren.org. (n.d.). Retrieved February 19, 2023, from https://www.healthychildren.org/Spanish/safety-prevention/immunizations/Paginas/Japanese-Encephalitis-Vaccine-What-You-Need-to-Know.aspx
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