Medical Q&As

Encephalitis - persistent fatigue?

I had viral encephalitis last year. I am still very tired and prone to infections. How long will it take for me to fully recover?

Viral encephalitis means inflammation of the brain that is caused by a viral infection. The symptoms include fever, headache, vomiting, irritability, photophobia (sensitivity to light), drowsiness, balance disturbance and confusion. Some cases are relatively benign and run a short course with the person making a full recovery within a matter of weeks. However, for some it is a potentially serious infection that can result in death within a few days of onset. Others may experience a more delayed form of recovery with fatigue and possibly neurological symptoms persisting for many months after the acute infection has subsided. It is suggested that ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis) or chronic fatigue syndrome may be triggered by a viral infection such as encephalitis. This theory suggests that the virus infects the body giving rise to a disorder in the immune system but the virus is then eliminated without leaving a trace. Thus the virus leaves behind a damaged immune system that continues to cause flu-like symptoms and fatigue even in the absence of the virus. This theory is referred to as the "hit and run" theory. In offering this interpretation I realise that I am entering a controversial area because not every doctor believes in the existence of ME and I am also reluctant to express a definitive view on the possibility that you have ME on the basis of the limited information contained in your question. You can read more about that condition by following this link: http://irishhealth.com/index.html?level=4&id=1985.