Encephalitis is the inflammation of the brain. Meningitis, on the other hand, is the inflammation of the spinal cord. The inflammation on these parts of the body systems, unlike other parts, can cause dangerous effects. Inside the brain and spinal cord, there is a protective layer known as the meninges. Consequently, its inflammation can lead to a headache, fever, seizures, confusion, stroke, brain damage, and even death. When both spinal cord and brain are affected by inflammation, it is called encephalomyelitis. Encephalitis and meningitis are caused by bacteria, virus and fungi in rear cases (Mugerwa & Patwala, 2010). Thus, this paper discusses the causes, signs, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of encephalitis and meningitis.
Causes of Encephalitis and Meningitis
According to Kaeley (2016), encephalitis is caused by the virus as a result of infection. Although infection is thought to result from the virus, the specific cause is not yet known. Most institutions in the UK have linked encephalitis to herpes simplex viruses that cause genital herpes and cold sores as well as varicella zoster virus which causes shingles and chickenpox. According to the studies, there are rare cases where Encephalitis is caused by bacteria and fungi (Mugerwa & Patwala, 2010). The protective layer in the brain, meninges, prevents foreign substances from entering it. When meninges are infected, the foreign substances get to the brain through the nerves and the bloodstream. Apart from the infection of meninges, encephalitis can also be caused by an animal-related infection such as Japanese encephalitis, tick-borne encephalitis and rabies (Suman, 2016).
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Similarly, meningitis is caused by viral infection. Bacterial infection is very rare but very serious if not treated in the early stages. It should be noted that some viruses and bacteria that are associated with meningitis include pneumococcal bacteria, mumps virus, herpes simplex virus, meningococcal bacteria, and enteroviruses. Meningitis can be spread from people carrying virus or bacteria through coughing, kissing, sneezing and sharing of utensils, toothbrushes, and cutlery. This disease can also be spread by people with meningitis although it is not common.
Signs and Symptoms
Often, people with viral encephalitis have no symptoms or mild symptoms of a headache, fatigue, fever, and pain in muscles and joints. More serious symptoms of encephalitis include loss of consciousness, double vision, and weakness of the muscles, loss of sensation, seizures, hallucination or confusion, the problem of speaking or hearing and perception of foul smells. Admittedly, young children and infants may have signs and symptoms of vomiting, poor feeding, inconsolable crying, and bulging of the fontanels.
In fact, the most common sign of meningitis is the classic rash. The rashes do not fade away when the glass is rolled over it. At first, the rash looks like small red pinpricks but later spreads on most parts of the body and turns to red or purple blotches. This is a sign of blood poisoning that is commonly known as septicemia caused by meningitis. The spots can also be hard. Other signs and symptoms of meningitis include confusion, cold hands and feet, weaknesses, feeling irritable, headache, fever, seizures, dislike of bright light, and drowsiness. In this case, young children and adults may have signs of poor feeding, stiff body, unusual high-pitched cry, fontanel, and agitation.
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For diagnosis of encephalitis a medical history of a patient is very important. However, diagnostic tests may include brain imaging especially if patient’s medical history suggests encephalitis. Imaging can be done through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computerized tomography (CT). Spinal tap or lumbar puncture is another test that can be done when the doctor collects fluid from spinal cord and brain column to find any changes in the fluid. Other tests may include blood or urine samples, brain biopsy and electroencephalogram (EEG).
Notably, meningitis can only be diagnosed by doing several lab tests. If the doctor suspects meningitis, he may request for a specimen from the person suspected to have this disease. The samples can be collected by taking blood samples, drawing fluids from areas around the spinal cord, swabbing rectum or/and swabbing the nose and throat. Although it is very rare, the doctors may ask for stool samples (Cunha, 2013).
Encephalitis is very serious and requires an urgent treatment. In fact, most people with encephalitis are admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU). Treatment of encephalitis depends on the type of encephalitis they are suffering from. For instance, infectious encephalitis is mostly treated by acyclovir, but it is only effective when treating encephalitis caused by herpes simplex virus and varicella zoster virus. High-dose corticosteroids injections, in their turn, are sued for the treatment of post-infectious encephalitis. Corticosteroids may have side effects such as indigestion, skin irritations, mood changes, and vomiting. Furthermore, autoimmune encephalitis is treated with corticosteroids, plasmapheresis, immunoglobulin, and medications such as immunosuppressant. Ciclosporin is one of the immunosuppressant drugs but it has the side effects such as increased body hair growth, hypertension, tremor, cramps, and tingling. Lastly, chronic encephalitis has no cure, but antiviral medications can suppress its progression (Rice, 2009).
Nowadays, there is no particular treatment for viral meningitis. As a rule, individuals experiencing viral meningitis recuperate from seven to ten days. Nonetheless, that affliction from meningitis that is brought about by herpesvirus and flu disappears after treatment with antiviral medication. Since most anti-infection agents do not treat viral meningitis, they are not valuable to a man experiencing viral meningitis. In some cases hospitalization is additionally prescribed to individuals with a danger of creating extreme meningitis, for example, kids and individuals with low resistant frameworks.
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The best prevention of encephalitis is an avoiding the exposure of viral encephalitis. This can be done through practicing a good hygiene such as washing hands frequently, avoidance of sharing utensils, getting vaccination, especially when traveling, and protection against mosquitoes and ticks. Mosquito repellents are not recommended for infants under the age of 2 years, therefore, parents should be covered with mosquito nets (Rice, 2009).
Non-polio enteroviruses, which are the main cause of meningitis, have no vaccines. Doctors recommend people to wash hands with soap and water regularly especially after changing diapers, blowing nose, coughing or after using the toilet. Also, people should avoid touching the face with unwashed hands and should not kiss, hug, and share utensils with sick people. When sneezing and coughing, one should cover his face, and lastly, sick people should avoid infecting other people by staying at home (Matthews, Miller, & Mott, 2006).
Several types of research have been conducted by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) in the US Department of human services regarding encephalitis and meningitis. Most research has been based on how the central nervous system responds to the inflammation of the brain or spinal cord to get better care and treatment of the two diseases. Although several types of research have been done on the causes, signs and symptoms, treatment and prevention of encephalitis and meningitis, the best cure are not yet found for the treatment of these two diseases. I think a lot of researchers need to be conducted to get the right cure (Yao, Xie, &Kim, 2007).
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To conclude, encephalitis and meningitis are irresistible illnesses. The spinal line and visually impaired brain have a preventive layer called meninges that keep the outside substances from entering the cerebrum and spinal strings. At the point when the meninges are inflamed, mind and spinal liquids are influenced as well. This may prompt an aggravation such as irritation of the spinal string which is known as meningitis and encephalitis. The reasons for encephalitis and meningitis are microbes and infection. These contagious diseases are not regular. They have few signs and side effects that incorporate migraine, shortcomings, seizure, disarray or even demise. To analyze the diseases the following tests should be done: tests of pee, blood, stool, and liquids from the mind and the spinal string (Rice, 2009). Despite the fact that there is not particular treatment for encephalitis, there are some drugs to smother and treat the different sorts of encephalitis. For example, antiviral pharmaceutical can be utilized to treat meningitis. Among all, the best techniques for anticipating the above-mentioned diseases is by watching cleanliness, for example, washing hands consistently, particularly after going out from the latrine, changing diapers, and hacking. Moreover, debilitated individuals ought to abstain from contaminating others by staying at home when wiped out and abstain from sharing utensils, toothbrushes, kissing and embracing others.