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Question
Posted by: Louisa | 2010/06/09

Herpes encephalitis - help needed

Dear Doctor

I really need help with this.

My father started to complain that he forgets things and went to see one of our local doctors. He was admitted to hospital and was diagnosed with a stroke. In the hospital we noted that his speech (sentences) was impaired. He could not find the right words for things. He would say the round shiny thing instead of a plate. After a few days he was discharged and things just got worse. We took him to the doctor again and she once again told us that we must wait it out as it is a stroke, sometimes it will get better sometimes not. We then took him for a second opinion, that doctor only checked the notes of the first doctor, did not do any tests and also advised that it is a stroke, wait it out.

Not happy with this, as things are getting worse we took my father to a specialist in Durban, SA. They noted on the MRI scans which was done by the previous doctors to white spots on his brain. He was immediately admitted to hospital and is now diagnosed with herpes encephalitis. He is really bad as he speaks to you but you can’ t make out what he is trying to say. His sentences are mixed up and he also does not understand what we are telling him. The doctor says that they started treating him and will be in hospital for about 20 days.

Could you please explain what this herpes encephalitis is and how he got it? Is it contagious?

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberDoc

Hallo Louisa
I'm sorry to hear that your dad is so sick. Herpes is a kind of virus and encephalitis means infection of the brain. Herpes is a common virus that usually causes cold sores on the mouth/nose and most of us have contact with it from time to time. It spreads by direct contact (touch) so it is not contagious if you visit your dad. Herpes encephalitis can spread from a cold sore in the nose via the sinuses to the brain. It is a serious but very rare disease and if untreated can cause death. These days we luckily have good antiviral medications available that we can use for the infection. I hope he recovers quickly!
Dr Bets

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Our users say:
Posted by: Cyberdoc | 2010/06/09

Hallo Louisa
I'm sorry to hear that your dad is so sick. Herpes is a kind of virus and encephalitis means infection of the brain. Herpes is a common virus that usually causes cold sores on the mouth/nose and most of us have contact with it from time to time. It spreads by direct contact (touch) so it is not contagious if you visit your dad. Herpes encephalitis can spread from a cold sore in the nose via the sinuses to the brain. It is a serious but very rare disease and if untreated can cause death. These days we luckily have good antiviral medications available that we can use for the infection. I hope he recovers quickly!
Dr Bets

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