What Is Herpes Meningoencephalitis?


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Herpes meningoencephalitis, also called HSV meningoencephalitis, is an infection of the brain and its covering. The herpes simplex virus causes the infection and is a medical emergency that must be treated immediately.

When the brain becomes infected or inflamed, the condition is called encephalitis. The brain covering, layers of thin tissue, is called the meninges. If these tissues are infected, the condition is called meningitis. Meningoencephalitis is when both the brain and the meninges are infected. If left untreated, meningoencephalitis caused by herpes is often fatal. Even when it isn’t, those who survive it frequently have long-term medical problems afterward if the infection isn’t timely and properly diagnosed and treated.

What Causes Herpes Meningoencephalitis?

Encephalitis and meningitis can be fungal or bacterial, but viruses cause many cases. And numerous viruses can be the source. The herpes simplex virus causes herpes encephalitis. Most of the time, it is herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV1) that causes it. The HSV1 virus is the one typically associated with causing cold sores. Herpes encephalitis may also be caused by herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV2), which is typically sexually transmitted and commonly affects the genitals. It can also be transmitted from a mother with the condition to her newborn during childbirth.

Both types of herpes, HSV1, and HSV2, are very contagious and remain in the infected person’s body throughout their life, even when no physical outbreaks exist. In fact, those infected can shed and spread the virus with no lesions or symptoms.

Meningoencephalitis sometimes develops during the initial infection with the herpes simplex virus. But it can also occur when the virus is reactivated from an earlier infection.

What Are The Symptoms Of Herpes Meningoencephalitis?

Viral meningitis causes symptoms including headache, fever, stiff neck, and sensitivity to light. Other symptoms, like fatigue, confusion, seizures, or a focal neurologic deficit (a nerve function issue affecting a specific area), may indicate that the brain is also affected and may be diagnosed as meningoencephalitis.

These are the possible signs and symptoms of meningoencephalitis:

  • Light sensitivity
  • Stiff neck
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Confusion or trouble thinking clearly
  • Changes in personality
  • Unusual behavior
  • Visual and auditory hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness
  • Death

How Does Negligence Cause HSV Meningoencephalitis?

Several situations may lead to a baby contracting HSV meningoencephalitis, including medical negligence. Some of the ways negligence occurs include:

  • When a doctor fails to diagnose HSV in the pregnant mother.
  • When a doctor fails to correctly diagnose and treat HSV in the newborn.
  • When a doctor fails to obtain adequate informed consent, this includes advising the pregnant woman of the risks and delivery method options, such as C-section delivery versus a vaginal birth.
  • When a doctor fails to deliver a baby of a mother with HSV properly to avoid the risk of infection to the baby, this includes failing to perform a C-section when it’s indicated, as well as using delivery instruments, like forceps or invasive tools, like a fetal scalp electrode.

Doctors and other medical professionals must take a thorough history of pregnant women, including asking about HSV infection and risk factors. The mother should be tested for HSV when certain risk factors are present. When a mother has HSV, all measures must be taken to prevent the spreading of the infection to the baby.

If the infant is at risk of infection, they must be given acyclovir intravenously to prevent the progression of the disease and then closely monitored after delivery. If any signs of HSV are present in the baby, it must be tested and treated promptly for the infection.

Why Contact A Birth Injury Lawyer In Pennsylvania?

If your newborn contracted HSV meningoencephalitis and was injured or died, it may have been due to pediatric medical malpractice. You must find an experienced birth injury attorney to represent your interests. A birth injury lawyer in Pennsylvania will have the experience and the ability to represent you and your family in a birth injury or wrongful death lawsuit.

At Ross Feller Casey, our attorneys have helped families like yours with similar cases. We know that monetary compensation can’t fix your baby’s injuries, but it can help relieve the financial expenses you may face due to the injuries.  

Let one of our birth injury lawyers evaluate your case and help you determine how best to proceed. There’s no cost to you until we win or settle your case, so you have nothing to lose. Contact the Ross Feller Casey law firm in Philadelphia today to schedule your free case review.

About the Author

Dr. Matthew H. H. Young is a nationally recognized Harvard-educated physician and attorney whose practice focuses on catastrophic injuries caused by medical malpractice.

Matt Young

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