Encephalitis means inflammation of the brain. The usual cause is infection, and the usual infection is viral. Ordinarily, mild viral encephalitis is harmless to the patient. It probably happens routinely with common viral infections like influenza. Rarely, severe viral encephalitis, potentially fatal, can occur with more unusual infections, for example equine encephalitis (spread by mosquitoes) or Herpes encephalitis. Most rare is rabies.

Symptoms include fever, headache, stiff neck, and photophobia (light bothers the patients eyes). Since these symptoms could herald more serious meningitis, immediate medical attention is needed. A lumbar puncture confirms the diagnosis. There is of course no specific treatment for viral encephalitis; care is what we like to call "supportive."

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