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Encephalitis (cont.)

Is Encephalitis Contagious?

The answer to this question depends upon the underlying cause of encephalitis. For example, some herpes viruses are contagious from person to person and can cause encephalitis. In this case, encephalitis is considered to be contagious. Viruses that are transmitted through the bite of infected insects are not considered contagious from person to person. Other causes of encephalitis such as autoimmune problems or chemical encephalitis are not contagious.

What Is the Incubation Period and Contagious Period for Encephalitis?

The contagious period and incubation period for encephalitis depends on the underlying cause of encephalitis. For example, some herpesviruses have an incubation period of about three to seven days on average but may range from about one to three weeks. The contagious period for some viruses may include the incubation period and the time it takes for the lesions (blisters, for example, in shingles) to crust over. Consequently, the contagious period and incubation period for encephalitis depends upon the cause of encephalitis being contagious; noncontagious encephalitis has no contagious or incubation period.

What Are Encephalitis Symptoms and Signs?

The signs and symptoms of encephalitis are the same for adults and children. Infants may have poor feeding, irritability, vomiting, bulging fontanel, and body stiffness; such symptoms in an infant always constitute a medical emergency.

  • Signs and symptoms may last for two to three weeks, are flu-like, and can include one or more of the following which in some individuals may become progressively worse and continue over time:
    • Fever
    • Fatigue, muscle weakness, rhythmic muscle contractions, muscle pain
    • Sore throat
    • Stiff neck and back
    • Loss of appetite
    • Vomiting and nausea
    • Headache
    • Confusion
    • Irritability
    • Unsteady gait, weakness
    • Problems with coordination
    • Drowsiness
    • Visual sensitivity to light
  • More severe cases may involve these signs and symptoms:
    • Seizures
    • Muscle weakness
    • Paralysis
    • Memory loss
    • Sudden impaired judgment
    • Delirium and/or hallucinations
    • Disorientation
    • Poor responsiveness or altered level of consciousness
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/5/2016

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Encephalitis »

Encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain parenchyma, presents as diffuse and/or focal neuropsychological dysfunction.

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