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Viral Encephalitis


Viral encephalitis is inflammation of the brain due to a viral infection.


Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You have a seizure.
  • You have sudden trouble breathing.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your symptoms get worse or come back.
  • You become confused, act differently than normal, or become harder to wake up than normal.
  • You have a bad headache, stiff neck, or trouble thinking clearly.

Call your doctor if:

  • You have a fever.
  • Your skin is itchy, swollen, or has a rash.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


You may need any of the following:

  • Antiviral medicine treats infections caused by a virus.
  • Steroids decrease swelling in your brain.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.


  • Rest when you feel it is needed. Slowly start to do more each day. Return to your daily activities as directed.
  • Physical, occupational, or speech therapy may be recommended after you recover. These may help to improve movement, decrease pain, maintain daily activities, and improve your ability to eat or speak.

Prevent viral encephalitis:

  • Prevent bites from mosquitoes and ticks:
    • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants to keep your skin covered any time you are outdoors.
    • Use an insect repellant that contains DEET (active ingredient) on your clothing and exposed skin. Use repellants with 30% DEET or less on infants who are younger than 2 months old. Follow the instructions on the label when you use an insect repellant. Do not use DEET on the hands of young children or on babies who may rub their eyes or mouth.
    • Clear dead trees and brush away from where you live to decrease ticks.
    • Do not go outside at sunrise and sunset, when mosquitoes are most active. If you sleep outdoors, use a mosquito net. Put screens on all windows and outside doors of your house, and repair screens that have holes in them.
    • Do not leave containers that can collect water in an uncovered or upright position. Mosquitos breed in standing water. Regularly check birdbaths, animal feeders, drinking troughs, and other bodies of standing water. Drain or pump out standing water around your house, such as in clogged gutters and ditches.
  • Remove ticks immediately. If a tick is biting, you will only see its body. The head will be buried in your skin. Use tweezers to remove the tick, if possible. Hold the tick with the tweezers as close to your skin as you can get. Pull the tick up and out of your skin. Do not pull hard or twist the tick. If you pull too quickly or too hard, you will pull the body off but leave the head in place. Instead, use firm, even pressure to pull the tick out. Flush the tick down the toilet if you can. If not, seal it in a plastic bag or wrap it in tape before you put it in the trash.
  • Wash your hands often. This helps prevent the spread of viruses that can lead to encephalitis. Wash your hands several times each day. Wash after you use the bathroom, change a child's diaper, and before you prepare or eat food. Use soap and water every time. Rub your soapy hands together, lacing your fingers. Use the fingers of one hand to scrub under the nails of the other hand. Wash for at least 20 seconds. Rinse with warm, running water for several seconds. Then dry your hands with a clean towel or paper towel. Use germ-killing gel if soap and water are not available. Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth without washing your hands first.
  • Ask about vaccines you may need. Vaccines for influenza, measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, and polio can help prevent an infection. Get a flu vaccine each year as soon as recommended, usually starting in September or October. A vaccine against the Japanese encephalitis virus is also available. Ask which vaccinations are right for you. Make sure your pet is vaccinated against rabies. If you work with animals, or have been recently bitten, you may need the rabies vaccine.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

For support and more information:

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
    1600 Clifton Road
    Atlanta , GA 30333
    Phone: 1- 800 - 232-4636
    Web Address:

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Viral Encephalitis (Discharge Care)

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