, Volume 6, Issue 5, pp 372-379

Viral encephalitis: Neuropsychiatric and neurobehavioral aspects

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Viral encephalitis, a condition in which a virus infects the brain and produces an inflammatory response, affects approximately 20,000 individuals per year in the United States. The viral encephalidities include sporadic and epidemic acute viral encephalidities and subacute and chronic/progressive viral encephalitis or encephalomyelitis. In people who survive these conditions, postencephalitic impairments of elemental neurologic, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral function are common. This article will provide a brief overview of the diagnosis and acute management of acute viral infections of the central nervous system. The neurologic and neuropsychiatric features, neuropathologies, and treatments of two of the more common types of acute viral encephalitis in North America— herpes simplex encephalitis and West Nile encephalitis—will be reviewed. The current and future role of psychiatrists and neuropsychiatrists in the care and study of individuals with these conditions will be discussed.