Encephalitis is a topic that is particularly close to us here at Northern Life. Clare Smith joined ‘the Loop’ as Northern Life’s accountant in 2017 and has proven herself to be a valuable and much-loved member, we’d simply be lost without her. Happily married to Neil, they live with their three children Sophia, Jack, Marc and family dogs Molly and Beth. All was going relatively well, until one morning Clare contacted the office explaining that she couldn’t make it into work. Her husband Neil had been rushed into hospital, her parting comment was, ‘I don’t know how this is going to pan out!’
Read Neil’s story below.
What is Encephalitis?
Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain. It can occur at any age, in any part of the world and is caused either by infection, usually viral, or by autoimmune diseases. Subsequently, many survivors are left with an acquired brain injury, the degree and severity of which will vary. Encephalitis is indiscriminate, showing no respect for age, gender, ethnic origin or other demographics.
Encephalitis can develop quickly and cause serious problems to the nervous system and the brain. It often begins with a ‘flu-like’ illness or with a headache. Symptoms indicating that this is a more serious illness follow later and typically include ‘lowered consciousness.
’Although common viruses, directly infecting the brain, are the major cause of encephalitis (Infectious Encephalitis), the body’s reaction to infection itself can also lead to encephalitis. Sometimes this happens following a simple infection or immunisation. This group of conditions are called post-infectious or Autoimmune Encephalitis. Not all forms of Autoimmune Encephalitis are triggered by infection or immunisation. Other forms of Autoimmune Encephalitis are associated with finding specific antibodies in blood. This group of causes of encephalitis is called Antibody-Associated or Antibody-Mediated Encephalitis.
There are 6,000 new cases of encephalitis in the UK each year alone, and hundreds of thousands more around the world. Mortality resulting from infection by the Herpes virus (which accounts for approx 30% of identified cases in the UK) is 20-30% with treatment. Left untreated the mortality rate is 70-80%.
Problems caused by Encephalitis
Recovery following encephalitis is very varied. The ongoing consequences are related to the subsequent brain injury (see figure below). Outcomes vary between those who are able to return to their former work and lifestyle (with perhaps only a slight change in their abilities) to those left profoundly disabled, physically, cognitively or both. A small percentage of those affected by encephalitis will need to remain in residential care for the rest of their lives.