One minute you’re at home with what you think is just a virus, the next you’ve developed a mystery illness that can make you hallucinate, have seizures, and forget years of your life.
Encephalitis occurs when the brain becomes inflamed either due to a virus which infects the brain (infectious encephalitis), or when the immune system mistakenly attacks the brain (autoimmune encephalitis).
If left untreated, inflammation causes damage to the brains nerve cells, resulting in an acquired brain injury. Therefore, urgent medical attention is vital to reduce the risk of life-changing consequences.
When can encephalitis claims be made?
The initial symptoms of encephalitis can be flu-like, such as headaches and a high temperature. This can make it difficult to diagnose. However, when symptoms indicate a neurological disorder, such as confusion, seizures, hallucinations, or uncharacteristic behaviour, tests should be done to confirm or exclude encephalitis.
Sadly, patients with encephalitis continue to have their symptoms ignored, overlooked or dismissed by medical professionals, causing their condition to worsen. Due to the neurological dysfunction, encephalitis is often misdiagnosed as a stress, anxiety or a mental breakdown. In other patients, it can be mistaken for Guillain-Barre Syndrome, meningitis or a brain tumour. There have also been instances where erratic behaviour caused by encephalitis has been wrongly presumed to be due to drug misuse or alcohol withdrawal.
In order to bring a successful medical negligence claim for encephalitis, your solicitor must prove two things: firstly, that there was a breach of duty of care, and secondly that this caused an injury or a worsening of your condition.
Examples of medical negligence for encephalitis are:
- Failure to diagnose
- A GP not referring a patient to hospital
- Failure to carry out tests such as a lumbar puncture
- Failure to record or interpret test results correctly
- At the emergency department, failure to perform adequate triage
- Failure to identify and treat the underlying cause of encephalitis
- Standard of treatment falling below a reasonable standard of care
Compensation can aid recovery from encephalitis
Recovering from encephalitis can be a long and complex process; you may need to relearn how to do things such as walk and talk, or deal with long-term changes to your memory, cognition, and behaviour.
To aid your recovery, you may benefit from physiotherapy and rehabilitation, occupational therapy to identify any mobility aids or home improvements, speech and language therapy, private care, or neuropsychology to deal with the trauma of your brain injury. Your brain injury may also affect your ability to work.
If you experienced failures to diagnose or treat encephalitis which led to the worsening of your condition, then you may be able to make a claim for medical negligence compensation which can help fund your recovery.
How can Medical Solicitors support your claim for encephalitis negligence?
Because the condition is difficult to spot, encephalitis claims can be complex. As experienced solicitors that only deal with medical negligence claims, our specialist team has vast experience in helping clients with acquired brain injuries.
We have also established strong working relationships with leading medical experts such as neurologists and neuropsychologists who we call upon to provide evidence and judgement about your experience as well as assess your ongoing needs.
As a Lexcel accredited law firm that has been praised for its compliance and case management, Medical Solicitors can help make your medical negligence claim for encephalitis as stress-free as possible. We have offices across Yorkshire in Sheffield, York and Hull, so our medical negligence team is well positioned to help clients across the UK who are looking to make a medical negligence claim for encephalitis.
If breach of duty and causation are admitted before a claim settles, we may be able to apply for interim payments – where you receive a proportion of the estimated final compensation early – which can be used to begin private therapies that will aid your recovery. We can also advise on any benefits you may be entitled to and where to find support for encephalitis.
We conduct most of our clinical and medical Negligence claims under ‘No Win, No Fee’ agreements, also known as Conditional Fee Agreements. So, you don't have to worry about how you are going to afford to bring a claim. You have nothing to lose in speaking to us.
World Encephalitis Day
Every year on February 22nd, the Encephalitis Society hosts World Encephalitis Day to raise awareness of the condition in the hope that it will help save lives and build better futures. The charity’s website has information about where to get help if you or a loved one has been affected by encephalitis, as well as more in-depth information about the condition.
What is encephalitis?
Encephalitis is a life-threatening condition where the brain becomes inflamed. There are two main types of encephalitis:
- Infectious encephalitis – this is where an infection spreads to the brain. It can be caused by any virus, but some common examples include herpes simplex (cold sore virus), influenza, enterovirus, chicken pox/shingles, measles, mumps or rubella, or tick-borne viruses.
- Autoimmune encephalitis – this might be where the immune system mistakenly attacks the brain after being triggered by a previous virus or non-cancerous tumour.
It can also be caused by bacterial, fungal or parasitic infections.
Encephalitis can affect anyone at any age, but is more serious in older people and infants. Because of the vaccination programme to protect against diseases like measles and mumps, children are more at risk of developing encephalitis from the cold sore virus – which is why it is so important not to kiss babies and young children.
It is also important to state that not everyone who has a virus will develop encephalitis. It is a very rare condition that affects just 6,000 people in the UK every year.
What are the symptoms of encephalitis?
Symptoms of encephalitis can be mild to start with, such as a headache, fever, nausea, and aching muscles and joints. In some people, more severe symptoms may develop quickly over a few hours, whereas in others the onset can be slow, taking weeks or months. This is more common in autoimmune encephalitis.
More serious symptoms include:
- Loss of consciousness or drowsiness
- Speech problems
- Loss of movement or weakness in the body
- Sensory changes
- Psychosis or hallucinations
- Memory loss
- Feeling agitated
- Altered personality
How is encephalitis diagnosed?
Diagnosis of encephalitis is usually by a series of tests. A lumbar puncture will check the fluid from around the spinal cord. A CT and/or MRI brain scan will determine whether the brain is inflamed due to encephalitis or whether it is something else such as stroke, an aneurysm, or tumour. An EEG (electroencephalogram) may be performed to check for abnormal brain activity.
How is encephalitis treated?
There are two main aims to treating encephalitis: firstly, to treat the cause; secondly, to treat the complications.
Medication to treat the cause of encephalitis may include antibiotic or antiviral medication to clear the infection, steroid injections to calm and control the immune system, plasma exchange, or surgery to remove any abnormal growths if this was the cause.
To treat the complications, patients may need oxygen or ventilation, a feeding tube, catherization, and medication to control seizures or agitation. In worst case scenarios, patients may need to be put into an induced coma to reduce the swelling on the brain.