Encephalitis is a serious condition and, although some people will make a good recovery, it can cause persistent problems and can be fatal.
For example, encephalitis due to the herpes simplex virus (the most common type of encephalitis) is fatal in 1 in 5 cases even if treated, and causes persistent problems in around half the people who have it.
The chances of successful treatment are much better if encephalitis is diagnosed and treated quickly.
Encephalitis can damage the brain and cause long-term problems including:
- memory problems
- personality and behavioural changes
- speech and language problems
- swallowing problems
- repeated seizures or fits – known as epilepsy
- emotional and psychological problems, such as anxiety, depression and mood swings
- problems with attention, concentrating, planning and problem solving
- problems with balance, co-ordination and movement
- persistent tiredness
These problems can have a significant impact on the life of the affected person, as well as their family, friends and carers.
Support and rehabilitation
Recovering from encephalitis can be a long, slow and difficult process. Many people will never make a full recovery.
Specialised services are available to aid recovery and help the person adapt to any persistent problems – this is known as rehabilitation.
This may involve support from:
- a neuropsychologist – a specialist in brain injuries and rehabilitation
- an occupational therapist – who can identify problem areas in the person's everyday life and work out practical solutions
- a physiotherapist – who can help with movement problems
- a speech and language therapist – who can help with communication
Before leaving hospital, the health and care needs of the affected person will be assessed and an individual care plan drawn up to meet those needs.
This should involve a discussion with the affected person and anyone likely to be involved in their care, such as close family members.
See our social care and support guide for useful information and advice about caring for someone, including information that may be useful if you're new to caring.
Help and advice
The Encephalitis Society is the main support group in the UK.
It can provide information and recommend the right professionals to help you in your situation.
Its helpline number is 01653 699 599.
Page last reviewed: 03 December 2019
Next review due: 03 December 2022