Viral Encephalitis

Nationwide Cerebral Palsy Resource Network

Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain most commonly caused by a viral infection. For pregnant women, contracting encephalitis can be deadly if not detected and immediately treated.

If you or your child suffered injury due to undetected or improperly treated encephalitis, Stern Law, PLLC can build an infection error case on your behalf. Please call (800)462-5772 to find out how our law firm can help.

Arboviruses and encephalitis

Arboviruses are among the most common causes of viral encephalitis. Hosts such as birds, rodents and pigs carry these types of viruses, which are then transferred to mosquitoes that feed on them. Thus, humans become at risk for infection should they be bitten by a mosquito carrying an arbovirus.

The most common forms of arboviruses that are transmitted via mosquitoes are as follows:

  • West Nile encephalitis, or WNE – This is a form of encephalitis with origins that derive from the West Nile Virus, which was first isolated back in 1937. WNE can cause severe inflammation of the brain and spinal cord in humans.
  • La Crosse encephalitis – Although rare, roughly half of those infected with this condition die or suffer from severe brain damage. Most people infected by this condition are children younger than 16 years old. Infected individuals more often than not reside in the Midwestern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. Of the 80 to 100 cases reported each year, about 1 percent is fatal.
  • St. Louis encephalitis, or SLE – With a viral strain known as California encephalitis (CE), this viral infection affects approximately 102 people each year in the United States. Most CE outbreaks occur in the Midwestern and Southwestern regions, with the last reported epidemic occurring in the Midwest in the mid-1970s. The disease usually affects adults, but can manifest in children. When children contract CE, the infection is generally milder.
  • Eastern equine encephalitis, or EEE – According to the Center for Disease Control, there have only been a few cases of this type of encephalitis reported since the early 1960s. This disease typically is found along the East Coast and in the Gulf States of the United States. About ninety percent of people infected with this disease are affected mildly. However, individuals that contract a severe form of this infection may suffer from severe brain damage and paralysis. Of those afflicted with a more severe form of EEE, approximately 50 to 75 percent die following infection.
  • Western equine encephalitis – Since the early 1960s, there have been about 639 confirmed cases of this infection. Today, very few cases are reported in the United States. The disease usually manifests in the western portion of the United States and parts of Canada. Infants that contract this disease are most at risk for serious complications, such as seizure disorders and developmental delays.
  • Venezuelan equine encephalitis, or VEE – This virus is found mainly in Central and South America, but cases have been reported in the southwestern portion of the United States. This infection is generally less severe than both WEE and EEE, Adults with VEE tend to develop a flu-like symptoms. Children, however, are prone to develop more serious conditions, including overt encephalitis.
  • Japanese encephalitis – This virus accounts for 15,000 deaths each year and manifests mostly in parts of Southeast Asia, China, and the Indian subcontinent. Rarely, Americans have contracted the disease when traveling to Asia or while engaged in active military service in the region.

Encephalitis due to viral infections

Viral infections account for most of the causes of encephalitis worldwide. Accordingly, viruses that most commonly cause viral encephalitis include:

  • Herpes simplex virus, or HSV – There are two forms of HSV, which include HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 is the cause of cold sores that manifest in the mouth and on the lips. HSV-2 is a more severe form of the herpes virus that causes lesions on the genitals of those infected. Once inside the body, HSV travels throughout the nerve fibers and can cause swelling and infection in the brain.
  • Varicella zoster virus – This virus causes chicken pox and shingles
  • Measles
  • Mumps
  • Rubella
  • Epstein-Barr virus – This virus causes mononucleosis

Additional causes

The additional causes of encephalitis are as follows:

  • Vaccination allergies<
  • Certain bacteria, including N. meningitis and those that lead to conditions such as Lyme disease, syphilis and tuberculosis
  • Certain autoimmune diseases, such as Rasmussen’s encephalitis
  • Cancers affecting the brain tissues
  • Certain parasites

  • Certain fungi, including candida, mucor, and cryptococcus

Risk factors associated with developing encephalitis

There are a number of risk factors that affect a pregnant woman’s chances of developing viral encephalitis. These include:

  • Being extremely young or of an advanced maternal age
  • Never having been vaccinated for the measles, mumps and rubella
  • Travel to areas where viral encephalitis is common
  • Having previously been diagnosed with HSV-2
  • Having a weakened immune system due to disease or infection

Although most cases of encephalitis are mild and short lived, some can have debilitating and sometimes fatal consequences without treatment. Pregnant women have to look after not only their own health but the health of their unborn baby, making a viral infection even more dangerous.

If a medical professional failed to detect the signs of encephalitis while you were pregnant, the health care provider should be held accountable. Please call Stern Law, PLLC at (800)462-5772 to talk about your case for free.