Herpes encephalitis is an infection of the brain and central nervous system caused by the herpes simplex virus.
Herpes encephalitis can be mild, or it may damage the brain and cause trouble walking, talking, and remembering. It can be life-threatening.
Herpes encephalitis is caused by the same virus that causes cold sores (fever blisters) and genital herpes. The herpes simplex virus causes painful blisters on the skin that can last for several days. Your child may have sores around your mouth or in the genital or buttocks area. Once your child is infected, the virus continues to live in his body, even after the first sores are gone.
In rare cases, the virus spreads to the nerves and brain and causes herpes encephalitis. This usually happens only when your child has a medical condition that weakens his immune system such as diabetes or HIV. The immune system is the body’s defense against infection.
The virus can be passed from a pregnant woman to her baby during birth. It can cause serious problems for the baby, sometimes even death. If a newborn is infected and survives the infection, the baby may have damage to the brain or other parts of the nervous system.
At first, your child may feel or act like he has the flu. Your child may have a headache, fever, and muscle aches. Over several hours or days, the symptoms may get worse. More severe symptoms may include:
If your child has these symptoms, call 911 for emergency help right away.
Your healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history and examine your child. Tests may include:
Encephalitis is treated in the hospital. Your child may be in the intensive care unit. If your child need help breathing, he or she may need a breathing machine. These life-support treatments are used until your child starts to get better. Your child may need IV fluids and medicines to:
Your child may start a rehabilitation (rehab) program to help with problems caused by the illness. This may include physical therapy, occupational therapy, or speech therapy.
Follow the treatment plan your child’s healthcare provider recommends.
Ask your provider:
Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.
When your child has herpes blisters anywhere on his body: