According to AbbreviationFinder, herd encephalitis is an inflammatory change in a part of the brain. It is usually caused by bacteria and usually occurs as a consequence of another inflammatory process in the body. While herd encephalitis was often fatal in the past, it can now be treated comparatively well.
What is herd encephalitis?
Septic herdencephalitis, or herdencephalitis for short, is inflammation that occurs in one or more parts of the brain, but does not affect it in its entirety. It is usually triggered by bacteria, but in rare cases it can also be caused by fungi or parasites. A distinction can be made between different forms of herd encephalitis.
With a concomitant brain abscess, the infected tissue is clearly demarcated from the surrounding area, while the volume of this area increases significantly. In the case of septic embolic herd encephalitis, a stroke occurs due to the spread of infected blood clots. Septic-metastatic herd encephalitis is characterized by the fact that several areas of the brain are affected simultaneously by pathogens that are freely present in the blood.
Herdencephalitis occurs when bacteria or, less commonly, other pathogens such as fungi or parasites such as Toxoplasma gondii enter brain tissue. Only extremely rarely does this happen through a direct infection if there is an open craniocerebral trauma after an accident. In the overwhelming majority of cases of illness, the pathogens are brought in from other parts of the body.
This happens above all when there are already advanced inflammatory diseases, especially when they are in the area of the respiratory tract and the head. Inflammatory changes in the dental apparatus can also result in herdencephalitis. Occasionally herd encephalitis also occurs after implantation.
This is an indication that the implant was contaminated with germs. The presence of an immunodeficiency disease is not the cause of herd encephalitis, but promotes it.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Herdencephalitis usually first manifests itself through non-specific symptoms. Headaches, dizziness and slight disorientation are the most common. These are a result of the increasing pressure from the enlarging focus of inflammation. Fever, vomiting, convulsions, difficulty speaking, and any combination of these symptoms are also possible.
The symptoms associated with herd encephalitis largely depend on where in the brain it is located. As the disease progresses, the existing symptoms worsen. In addition to a high fever, neurological deficits and, if treatment is not given, even a coma can be expected.
Diagnosis & History
In order to be able to diagnose herdencephalitis with certainty, an imaging procedure is necessary. Computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging is therefore performed after the administration of a contrast agent. In the early stages, herd encephalitis can easily be mistaken for other brain diseases.
After just a few days, however, the disease can be clearly recognized by the inflammatory focus, the associated edema and the visible encapsulation of the surrounding tissue. In order to be able to determine the exact pathogen, a lumbar puncture is then performed and cerebrospinal fluid is removed. This is then microbiologically examined in the laboratory.
The origin of the pathogen must then be found so that the primary disease can also be treated. Another computer tomography is often used, in which case the chest and abdomen are preferably examined.
Since herd encephalitis is a disease that progresses extremely quickly, it can be diagnosed with certainty after a short time, even if the symptoms are diffuse and not clearly assignable at the beginning, and treatment can be initiated. Over the past few decades, this has had an extremely positive effect on the chances of recovery from the disease, which used to be quite often fatal.
Herdencephalitis mainly causes problems in the brain. These are noticeable for the patient through various physical and psychological symptoms. In most cases, headaches occur because intracranial pressure increases. This pain often spreads to other areas and regions of the body and can also lead to pain in these.
Dizziness and nausea continue to occur. The patient suffers from fever and severe convulsions. Action and thinking are also restricted, and it is not uncommon for speech disorders and disorientation to occur. In some cases, the patient loses consciousness or falls into a coma. Without treatment, herd encephalitis reduces life expectancy extremely and the patient dies from the disease.
Paralysis and other sensory disturbances can also occur in the patient’s body. The diagnosis of herdencephalitis is usually relatively quick and easy, which means that early treatment of this disease is possible. Furthermore, there are no complaints or complications. Herdencephalitis can be treated quickly with the help of antibiotics. Life expectancy is not reduced if treated quickly and correctly.
When should you go to the doctor?
If symptoms such as headaches, dizziness and disorientation occur, herdencephalitis may be the underlying cause. A doctor should be consulted if symptoms persist for more than two to three days. If there are other symptoms such as fever, nausea and vomiting, cramps or speech disorders, the person concerned must seek medical advice immediately.
Edema and other external changes must also be clarified immediately. The sick person should go to a hospital and have the symptoms clarified. At the latest when neurological deficits are noticed, medical advice is required.
If the victim loses consciousness, an ambulance must be called. Herdencephalitis usually occurs as part of a respiratory disease or inflammatory changes in the dental apparatus. The symptoms mentioned can also occur after an implantation or after an accident with an open craniocerebral trauma.
In addition, patients suffering from an immune deficiency disease belong to the risk groups and should have the symptoms mentioned promptly clarified by a doctor. In addition to the family doctor, neurologists and specialists in internal medicine are among the contacts. In the case of severe symptoms, it is best to call the emergency doctor or contact the medical emergency service.
Treatment & Therapy
In the case of herd encephalitis, the first step is to normalize the pressure in the brain to prevent further damage. This can be achieved, for example, by hypobaric oxygenation. In this form of treatment, pure oxygen is used at increased ambient pressure. This takes place in a specially designed pressure chamber.
If this is possible due to the location in the brain, the inflamed area is then surgically removed. If an important brain region such as the language center or the brainstem is affected, it must be avoided. Instead, or in addition to previous surgery, antibiotics are used. Antibiotic therapy can be applied before the definitive diagnosis of herd encephalitis. In this case, broad-spectrum antibiotics are used first.
After the responsible pathogen has been determined, a switch is then made to an antibiotic that is tailored to it. Toxoplasma gondii infection can also be treated with antibiotics. If the pathogen is a fungus, an antifungal must be used.
In addition to the treatment of herd encephalitis, therapy also includes treating the actual underlying disease. In particular, foci of pus in the body must be thoroughly eliminated. It may therefore be necessary to surgically treat infected wounds, abscesses in the area of the teeth and suppuration in the ear, nose and throat area.
Outlook & Forecast
Just a few years ago, the prognosis for diagnosed herd encephalitis was always negative: the disease led to death in most cases. Today, however, thanks to modern treatment methods and a better understanding of the disease, a much better prognosis is possible in most cases.
The general condition is important for the success of the treatment and thus for the patient’s prospects of recovery. Certain previous illnesses such as diabetes or AIDS have a negative effect on the prognosis. Underlying diseases such as an existing inflammation of the inner lining of the heart can also have a negative effect.
If the patient is otherwise in good general condition, herd encephalitis is easily treatable, provided the patient receives appropriate medical care. A quick start of therapy with antibiotics and possibly necessary operations has a positive effect on the prognosis.
For this, it is necessary for the patient to go to a hospital that can provide the necessary specialist departments and facilities, in particular with computer tomographs, laboratories, neurosurgery and microbiology. Then, in addition to consistent therapy, rapid intervention is possible in the event of any complications that may arise, such as an increase in intracranial pressure or the development of further foci of inflammation.
In order to prevent herd encephalitis, in addition to a general strengthening of the immune system and avoiding people with infectious diseases with an existing immune deficiency, all inflammatory diseases should be treated promptly. This applies in particular to infections in the area of the teeth, ears and paranasal sinuses.
Prolonged foci of pus should be avoided as far as possible. This can prevent the corresponding diseases from being carried over and the pathogens from being able to spread through the bloodstream into the brain, where they can trigger herdencephalitis.
In most cases, those affected by herd encephalitis have no direct or special measures and options for aftercare. The priority here is the early detection of the disease so that further compilations can be avoided. Therefore, a doctor should be consulted as soon as the first symptoms and signs of this disease appear.
In most cases, the treatment is carried out directly in a hospital. Those affected are always dependent on the help, care and support of their own family and friends. This can also prevent mental upsets or depression. Furthermore, herd encephalitis is also treated by taking medication.
Those affected should pay attention to the correct dosage and to taking the medication regularly so that the symptoms can be alleviated. Alcohol should not be consumed with antibiotics, as this can weaken the effect of the drug. In most cases, periodic examinations by a physician should be performed during treatment to properly monitor herd encephalitis symptoms. In some cases, the life expectancy of those affected is reduced by this disease.
You can do that yourself
Herdencephalitis can be avoided by taking a number of measures. If the person concerned suffers from a weak immune system or an immune deficiency, infections and inflammation must be avoided at all costs. This also includes observing a high standard of hygiene and treating all illnesses at an early stage. Infections in the ears, teeth and nose in particular should be examined very quickly. This prevents the pathogen from spreading to the brain.
However, there are no special options for self-help in the case of herd encephalitis, nor is it necessary. In most cases, the disease can be treated relatively quickly and easily by a doctor. Those affected are dependent on taking antibiotics.
Possible interactions with other medications should be taken into account. If the person concerned is therefore not sure whether medication influences each other, a doctor should always be contacted. Alcohol must also be avoided while taking antibiotics.
In some cases, surgical interventions must take place. After such interventions, those affected should take it easy and not carry out any heavy work.