Encephalitis Essay, Research Paper
Encephalitis, literally meaning inflammation of the brain, is a viral disease caused by many
viruses that cause the brain to swell. It can also be caused by exposure to harmful chemicals as
well as a complication of another disease. The strains of this pathogen that are present in North
America include western encephalitis, eastern encephalitis, La Crosse, and St. Louis encephalitis.
These viruses infect all ages and sexes equally, however the fatality rate is much higher in infants
and the elderly.
This deadly, but highly unknown disease is carried to it?s victims through mosquitoes, and
occasionally ticks. These arthropods pick up the virus from an infected host, usually birds,
horses, or cows, and carry it for four to fourteen days, or faster when warm weather is present.
This allows the virus to replicate. At this time, they are able to infect humans and other animals
with the virus.
Once contaminated, the person may not notice symptoms for one or two weeks. At the
end of that time he will notice drowsiness, headaches, stupor, abnormal vision, and sleep
disturbances in normal cases. In more severe cases, the infected party may experience seizures,
paralysis, cardiac or respiratory arrest, and he may go into a coma. Thirty-eight percent of these
severe cases will end in death after two weeks.
When a physician suspects that a patient may have encephalitis, he will first observe the
symptoms. If these symptoms continue to point toward the virus, the doctor will perform a
lumbar puncture, checking the the pressure as the fluid drains. Then he will examine the spinal
fluid, looking for high amounts of white blood cells or proteins. Now the doctor must isolate the
virus or do a blood work-up to be sure this is the disease the patient has been infected with.
When this procedure is not correctly followed, the patient can be misdiagnosed as having multiple
sclerosis, polio, or meningitis.
Encephalitis has no cure, but most of the symptoms can be treated. In order to recover
quickly, it is recommended that the patient gets plenty of bed rest and that he stay under medical
supervision for the duration of the illness. Even when he follows these instructions, he may be
sick for several months, and there is a 25% chance that the patient will never fully recover.
There are no vaccines for encephalitis, but with proper precautions it can be prevented.
The best way to avoid the virus is to avoid mosquitoes. Some things you can do include wearing
insect repellent, wearing long sleeves and pants, and fixing window and door screens in the home.
You can also encourage your city government to invest in finding mosquito breeding sites,
population and density. When the city knows these things, they are able to control high
population with larvivorous fish or insecticides.
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