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Acute viral encephalitis in children: Treatment and prevention

Hordur S Hardarson, MD
Section Editors
Morven S Edwards, MD
Gary R Fleisher, MD
Douglas R Nordli, Jr, MD
Deputy Editor
Carrie Armsby, MD, MPH


Viral infection of the central nervous system (CNS) most often leads to meningitis, meningoencephalitis, or encephalitis, in descending order of frequency [1]. Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain parenchyma, manifest by neurologic dysfunction (eg, altered mental status, behavior, or personality; motor or sensory deficits; speech or movement disorders; seizure) and evidence of CNS inflammation (eg, cerebrospinal fluid pleocytosis and/or findings consistent with encephalitis on neuroimaging or electroencephalogram) [2].

The treatment and prevention of viral encephalitis in children will be discussed here. The pathogenesis, etiology, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis of viral encephalitis in children are discussed separately. (See "Acute viral encephalitis in children: Pathogenesis, incidence, and etiology" and "Acute viral encephalitis in children: Clinical manifestations and diagnosis".)


Central nervous system (CNS) infections are described according to the site of infection:

Encephalitis – Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain parenchyma and is associated with neurologic dysfunction. Characteristic clinical features include altered mental status (decreased level of consciousness, lethargy, personality change, unusual behavior), seizures, and/or focal neurologic signs, often accompanied by fever, headache, nausea, and vomiting [3]. (See "Acute viral encephalitis in children: Clinical manifestations and diagnosis", section on 'Clinical features'.)

Meningitis – Meningitis is inflammation of the meninges and is typically manifested by fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, photophobia, and stiff neck. (See "Viral meningitis: Clinical features and diagnosis in children", section on 'Clinical features'.)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Oct 06, 2016.
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