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Encephalitis lethargica often causes symptoms such as high fever, headache, and lethargy. The cause of this disease is unknown. Treatment is based on the symptoms a person has. Levodopa and other antiparkinson drugs often produce dramatic responses in patients with this condition.

What Is Encephalitis Lethargica?

Encephalitis lethargica is a disease characterized by:
  • High fever
  • Headache
  • Double vision
  • Delayed physical and mental response
  • Lethargy.
In acute cases, patients may enter a coma.
People with encephalitis lethargica may also experience:
  • Abnormal eye movements
  • Upper body weakness
  • Muscle pains
  • Tremors
  • Neck rigidity
  • Behavioral changes (including psychosis).

What Causes Encephalitis Lethargica?

The cause of encephalitis lethargica is unknown.

Have There Been Any Epidemics?

Between 1917 and 1928, an epidemic of encephalitis lethargica spread throughout the world, but no recurrence of the epidemic has since been reported.
Postencephalitic Parkinson's disease may develop after a bout of encephalitis lethargica -- sometimes as long as a year after the illness.

Treating Encephalitis Lethargica

Treatment for encephalitis lethargica is based on the symptoms a person experiences. Levodopa and other antiparkinson drugs often produce dramatic responses in people with this condition.

What Is the Prognosis?

The course of encephalitis lethargica varies, depending upon complications or accompanying disorders.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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