What is Encephalitis (Encephalopathy)?
Encephalitis (en-sef-uh-LIE-tis), also known as encephalopathy, is a swelling of the brain. There are a number of known causes, ranging from viral infections to vaccines.
Encephalopathy starts during or after a person contracts certain viruses or bacterias. Then, if the virus or bacteria ends up traveling to the spinal cord or brain, it causes inflammation. This inflammation produces the symptoms of encephalitis.
There are a number of other potential triggers to encephalopathy. However, doctors find it difficult to determine the exact cause. In fact, many people never find out the real causation.
Diagnosed with Encephalitis After a Vaccine?
Which Vaccines Have Been Linked to Encephalitis?
For the most part, vaccines are safe procedures that prevent communities from suffering outbreaks of deadly diseases like tuberculosis, measles and yellow fever. However, in rare cases, patients suffer injuries like secondary encephalitis as a side-effect of an otherwise safe vaccine.
Although the causes of many vaccine injuries are not clear, research suggests some patients’ bodies might over-react to their vaccines, leading to serious side-effects. There have been 1,122 cases of encephalitis (including brain stem encephalitis) reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). MCT Law represented a client who suffered from encephalitis after the MMR vaccine, and the client received $101 million dollars. According to reports published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), all of the following vaccines are linked to encephalitis:
- MMR vaccine – Although it has been incredibly effective in preventing measles, mumps, and rubella in the United States, about 1 in 3 million children experience encephalitis after getting an MMR shot. It is a rare occurrence, but it does happen.
- DTP or DTaP vaccine – The DTP vaccine protects against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough). It has long been associated with encephalitis. The DTaP vaccine is a newer, modified version of the DTP vaccine, but its relationship to encephalitis is not yet understood.
- Influenza (flu) vaccine – Cases of encephalitis have been reported following flu shots. Flu shots have also been associated with a similar condition called Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM).
Some of these vaccines have also been associated with conditions similar to secondary encephalitis, such as acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) and measles inclusion body encephalitis. ADEM is a brief but intense inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.
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Primary vs. Secondary Encephalitis
There are two types of encephalitis: primary and secondary. Primary encephalitis occurs when a virus attacks the brain and spinal cord directly. In the secondary form, an infection starts in some part of the body, and then travels to your brain. Reports say secondary encephalitis is a side-effect of certain vaccines.
Who is at risk of contracting encephalitis?
Anybody can develop primary or secondary encephalitis. However, certain factors have been shown to increase the risk. For example: age, having a compromised immune system, the time of year and location all increase risk. Additionally, anyone who suffered a viral infection, like the ones listed below, is at risk.
- Herpes Virus
- The Flu
- Mosquito-borne Viruses
- Bacterial Infections
- Fungal Infections
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What are the symptoms of encephalopathy in adults and children?
Symptoms of encephalitis depend on the area of the brain affected, the cause, the age of the patient, and the over all severity of the case. Some people experience no symptoms and others only experience flu-like symptoms. However, those with the most severe cases experience seizures and personality changes. Encephalitis is a serious but curable disease that is fatal if not treated, so you should seek medical attention immediately if you suspect that you have it.
Some of the most common victims of encephalitis are children and infants under the age of 1. Sometimes, young children suffering from encephalitis develop unique symptoms in addition to the ones listed above. Children’s encephalitis symptoms include swelling in the soft spots of a baby’s head, irritability, loss of appetite, stiffness in body, vomiting and nausea.
The Most Common, Flu-like Symptoms of Encephalitis Include:
- Achy muscles and joints
More Severe Symptoms of Encephalitis Include:
- Loss of feeling in parts of the face
- Loss of feeling in parts of the body
- Inability to move certain muscles in the face or body
- Trouble speaking and/or hearing
- Confusion or memory problems
- Loss of consciousness or cognitive ability
- Severe headaches
Are There Treatments For Encephalitis?
Encephalitis is treatable and curable. The first step to treating encephalitis is receiving a diagnosis. An early diagnosis is key to ensuring a good outcome. Typically, diagnosis starts with a physical examination by your doctor and a discussion of your medical history, including vaccine history. Diagnosing encephalitis may require any or all of the following procedures:
- MRI or CT scan
- Spinal tap
- Blood or urine exams
- Brain biopsies
After the initial diagnosis, treatment for uncomplicated cases of encephalitis usually includes bed rest, fluids, and anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Tylenol.
Additional medications may be prescribed to treat the underlying infection, depending on the cause of encephalitis.
For more severe cases of encephalitis, patients may require hospitalization, breathing assistance, intravenous fluids, corticosteroids, and follow-up therapies (such as physical therapy and speech therapy).