Acute encephalitis syndrome is a group of conditions of that mainly affect the brain and is caused by a wide range of viruses, bacteria, fungi, spirochetes, parasites, chemicals and toxins. It is a condition where the outer covering of the brain gets inflamed due to an infection, and exerts undue pressure on the brain leading to symptoms like headaches, fever, confusion, dizziness and in some cases may lead to permanent brain damage and coma, convulsions, seizures and hallucinations.
The most common type of encephalitis is Japanese encephalitis followed by other types like those caused due to the West Nile virus, Eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV), Western equine encephalitis virus and many more. In India it has been seen that the number of people suffering from acute encephalitis syndrome is the highest in regions of Assam where 80% of the people suffer from this disease, followed by UP. Read about the recent outbreak of encephalitis in UP.
The most astonishing fact about this condition is that it is a zoonotic disease, i.e. one that is caused due an agent transmitted from animals to humans.
The diagnosis of encephalitis usually involves a spinal tap (where a sample of the patient’s spinal fluid is taken and tested for the presence of a bacteria or virus), CT scan and in some cases an MRI may also be needed.
Treatment involves strong antibiotics (in the case of infection by bacteria), surgery to drain the excess fluid buildup (that happens sometimes) and palliative treatment like pain killing drugs and ventilator support (to help the patient breathe) might also be needed.