Campaigners are calling for more funding into a little-known condition which is more common in the UK than motor neurone disease, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and bacterial meningitis.
Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain and affects 500,000 people globally each year and yet investment in medical research and general awareness pales in comparison to these other neurological conditions.
That is why the Encephalitis Society wants to highlight this funding gap throughout Encephalitis Research Month in June.
Dr Ava Easton, Chief Executive of the Encephalitis society, said: “Eight out of 10 people do not know what encephalitis it and yet it has a higher incidence rate in many countries than other neurological conditions, such as multiple sclerosis and motor neurone disease.
“This perpetuates a myth that encephalitis a rare condition which is why we have to do more campaigns like Encephalitis Research Month to raise public and governmental awareness.
“Research is crucial in helping to increase understanding of why the condition occurs and how new treatments and therapies can help save lives and assist survivors to achieve as full a recovery as possible.”
Encephalitis is caused either by an infection invading the brain; or through the immune system attacking the brain in error. It can damage or destroy nerve cells, leading to death or leaving survivors with an acquired brain injury.
No two people affected will have the same outcome following their experience with estimates also suggesting that encephalitis costs the NHS around £40 million a year, not including the costs of rehabilitation and long-term care.
“Encephalitis can often be complex in the way it presents itself,” said Dr Easton. “And, unfortunately, there is not one simple hook that we can warn the public to look out for which is why being able to raise awareness is so important.
“Typically, infectious encephalitis would have a very rapid onset with very acute and serious symptoms while autoimmune encephalitis is much slower, with a longer onset and patients often presenting psychiatrically.”
“The more that the public and health professionals are aware of encephalitis and its symptoms, the quicker they can receive the life-saving treatment they need.”
To find out more about Encephalitis Research Month and to make a donation, visit www.encephalitis.info/research