Encephalitis

What Is It?

Encephalitis means inflammation of the brain. This inflammation usually is triggered by a viral infection, although sometimes it can be caused by a bacterial infection of the brain, such as Lyme disease. In some cases, symptoms are caused by direct infection of the brain. In other cases, the brain inflammation is caused by the immune system's response to the brain infection. Even if the immune system attack succeeds in eliminating the infection, it may injure the brain in the process. This is called post-infectious encephalitis.

Often, viruses that cause encephalitis also cause inflammation of the delicate tissues that cover the brain and spinal cord, which are called the meninges. This condition is meningitis. When encephalitis and meningitis occur together, it is called meningoencephalitis.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »