Encephalitis is inflammation (swelling) of the brain, most often caused by a viral infection.
Inflammation of the brain due to encephalitis can be caused by a viral or bacterial infection. In most cases, encephalitis only causes mild flu-like symptoms. In rare cases, however, encephalitis can be life threatening.
Pediatric encephalopathy may be caused by several factors. In infants (birth to 1 year*), it is usually a genetic condition involving high levels of glycine (amino acid) in the brain.
Primary encephalitis – This occurs when a virus or other agent directly infects the brain. The infection may be concentrated in one area or it could be widespread.
Secondary encephalitis – This occurs when a person’s immune system fails to react to an infection elsewhere in the body effectively. Instead of attacking the cells that have caused the infection, the immune system attacks healthy brain cells by mistake.
In most cases, babies and children with encephalitis experience mild, flu-like symptoms, including:
Aches in muscles or joints
Bulging in the soft spots (fontanels) of the infant’s skull