Encephalitis - An inflammation of the brain
Causes, incidence and risk factors - Encephalitis is most often caused by a viral infection due to insect bites, food or drink, or skin contact.
Once the virus has entered the bloodstream, it can localise in the brain causing inflammation of the brain cells and surrounding membranes. White blood cells invade the brain tissue as they try to fight off the infection. The brain tissue swells and can cause destruction of nerve cells, bleeding within the brain, and brain damage.
Encephalitis is uncommon. It affects about 1,500 people per year in the US.
• a sudden fever
• a headache
• light hurts the eyes (photophobia)
• a stiff neck and back (occasionally)
• confusion, disorientation
• clumsiness, unsteady gait
• irritability or poor temper control
• loss of consciousness
• poor responsiveness, stupor, coma
• muscle weakness or paralysis
• sudden severe dementia
• memory loss (amnesia), impaired short-term memory or impaired long-term memory
• little or no observable change in mood, or mood is inappropriate for the situation
• diminished interest in daily activities
• inflexibility, self-centredness, indecisiveness, or withdrawal from social interaction
• impaired judgment
Prevention - Public health measures to control mosquitoes (a mosquito bite can transmit some viruses) can reduce the incidence of some types of encephalitis. Animal vaccination is important to prevent encephalitis that occurs because of the rabies virus.
Protection from mosquito bites
• wear long sleeves and long pants in a mosquito-infested area
• use mosquito repellent containing DEET (follow label instructions carefully)
• limit outdoor activities at dawn, dusk, and early evening, when mosquitoes are most active
• repair holes in door and window screens
• eliminate standing water in your yard, as mosquitoes will lay eggs there (tyres, flowerpots, pet dishes, puddles, and bird baths are favourite nesting grounds)
• keep your swimming pool aerated, and consider purchasing mosquito-eating fish for your pond
• keep your gutters clean to prevent standing water
article courtesy of Trinidad Express, September 5 , 2000