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Inflammation of the brain, most often due to infection, usually with a virus. One class of encephalitis (including multiple sclerosis) attacks the myelin sheath that insulates nerve fibres rather than the neurons themselves. In most cases, symptoms include fever, headache, lethargy, and coma. Convulsions are most common in infants. Characteristic neurological signs include uncoordinated, involuntary movements and localized weakness. The symptoms and a lumbar puncture (to obtain cerebrospinal fluid for analysis) may establish the presence but not the cause. Treatment usually aims to relieve the symptoms and ensure quiet rest. Various symptoms may remain after recovery.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on encephalitis, visit Britannica.com.