Complications of encephalitis 

Although some people will make a good recovery after having encephalitis, the condition can cause significant complications and can be fatal.

The chances of successful treatment are much better if the condition is diagnosed and treated quickly. 

However, even with treatment, encephalitis can be fatal. About 1 in 5 people treated for encephalitis caused by the herpes simplex virus  one of the most common but serious forms of the condition  will die.

Overall, about 1 in 10 encephalitis cases are fatal. In some cases, people survive with one or more long-term complications due to brain damage.
The most common complications of encephalitis include:

  • memory problems  which affect 7 out of 10 people with complications
  • personality and behavioural changes  which occur in just under half of all people
  • aphasia  speech and language problems, which occur in about 1 in 3 people
  • epilepsy  which occurs in 1 in 4 affected adults and 1 in 2 affected children
  • changes in emotions  such as anxietyanger and mood swings 
  • problems with attention, concentrating, planning and problem solving
  • physical and motor difficulties
  • low mood and a sense of feeling different
  • fatigue (extreme tiredness)

Individual care plans

Due to these complications, specialised services are often needed during recovery. For example, a person with encephalitis may need help from:

  • a neuropsychologist  a brain injury and cognitive rehabilitation specialist 
  • an occupational therapist  they can identify problem areas in a person's everyday life and help to work out practical solutions
  • physiotherapist  who can help restore movement and function when someone is affected by injury, illness or disability
  • a speech and language therapist  who use specialist techniques to improve all aspects of communication

Before being discharged from hospital, your health and social care needs will be fully assessed and an individual care plan drawn up to meet those needs. 

If you're the primary carer of someone recovering from encephalitis, you should be invited to take part in discussions about the care plan, and your own circumstances and requirements should be taken into account. You should also be given information about support services available in your local community.

Our care and support section provides lots of useful information and advice about caring for someone, including information that may be useful if you're new to caring.

Seeking further help

Seek additional help if you're experiencing problems after having encephalitis. Many healthcare professionals are unaware of the problems following encephalitis, and it can sometimes be a struggle to find the right help for you.

The Encephalitis Society can provide you with appropriate sources of information and recommend the right professionals to help you in your situation. Their helpline number is 01653 699 599.  

Page last reviewed: 16/12/2014

Next review due: 16/12/2016