Eight out of ten people do not know what encephalitis is; such is the situation across the globe. World Encephalitis Day led by Encephalitis Society is a global campaign which recognizes the impact on those affected and raises awareness of encephalitis among the general public. About 5,00,000 children and adults are affected by encephalitis every year, i.e., one person every minute. Anyone can be a victim of encephalitis, irrespective of age, gender or ethnicity.
On the 5th Annual Encephalitis Day, i.e., 22nd February 2018, Manipal Centre for Virus Research, MAHE (Manipal Academy of Higher Education) gathered to create awareness about encephalitis. Also, present among us was Dr. V Ravi, professor, NIMHANS, Bangalore a leading expert of encephalitis to lend his support. The participants were provided with information on the viral causes of encephalitis and diagnosis. The session ended with a group photograph in the department premises.
Encephalitis is an inflammatory process of the brain associated with clinical or laboratory evidence of neurological dysfunction. More than 100 different pathogens constitute the infectious causes of AES. Acute encephalitis is a clinical diagnosis with acute onset of symptoms including altered level of consciousness, new onset of seizures and altered muscle tone due to brain dysfunction and signs of inflammatory lesions in the brain. Laboratory investigation of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) includes pleocytosis, the presence of abundant white blood cells, which indicates an infection. The patient will usually have a prodromal phase, preceding the encephalitis phase for one to three days with fever, weakness and headache and an encephalitic phase with continued fever, decreasing level of consciousness, seizures, abnormal movements or paralysis.
Many succumb to the illness, but others recover, though with sequelae of cognitive deficiencies, muscle paralysis, abnormal movements, etc. In addition to the significant morbidity and mortality associated with encephalitis, many of those who survive may have residual disability impacting on long-term quality of life. The social consequence of encephalitis is significant since it is common for people to experience changes in their thinking, behaviour and memory making it difficult to perform day to day life activities. The economic impact on the families is also substantial due to the cost of in-patient treatment. Several factors probably contribute to the difficulties of identifying the aetiology in individual cases of encephalitis, such as the limited availability of state-of-the-art laboratory techniques for identifying many pathogens, the lack of appropriate specimens, and our insufficient understanding of potential pathogens that cause encephalitis. Cases presenting with acute encephalitis should be clinically diagnosed based on their clinical signs and symptoms supported by CSF analysis supported by specific disease testing, rather than labelling AES as the diagnosis itself. “Correct management will depend on the correct diagnosis.”