Saturday 22 February 2020 marked World Encephalitis Day. It was set up to provide global awareness of the condition and brings together families and individuals who have been affected by encephalitis to talk about their experiences.
Encephalitis is caused by an inflammation of the brain (infectious encephalitis) or through the immune system attacking the brain in error (post-infectious or autoimmune encephalitis). The Encephalitis Society advises that there are up to 6,000 cases in the UK every year.
Symptoms of encephalitis are often confused with other diseases and this can sometimes result in a delay in diagnosis or treatment. Common signs include flu-like symptoms, fever, drowsiness, headaches, irritability or change in behaviour, weakness in one or more parts of the body, seizures, bulging soft spots in infants and the possibility of a coma. It is paramount that you seek urgent medical attention if you or somebody else has any of these symptoms. Early diagnosis is key in preventing further complications. A delay can sadly lead to death.
As clinical negligence lawyers, we often see claims relating to encephalitis, many of which are linked to a delay in diagnosis or starting treatment. The most common delays relate to referral from the primary care setting or in performing a full infection screen and lumbar puncture once in hospital. Despite symptoms progressing quickly, the severity is not always recognised. Any delay can have a major impact on recovery and symptoms post diagnosis.
Although each case is different and people will require a variety of therapies and assistance, everyone diagnosed with encephalitis should be treated with Acyclovir. The latest time to administer this medication should be after a lumbar puncture is performed. Acyclovir, however, can be given even when a diagnosis is pending because it is a relatively harmless drug. The earlier the drug is administered, the better the chances of recovery will be.
Many cases we see involving a delay in providing medication result in our clients being left with life-changing conditions including epilepsy, brain damage and speech and language difficulties, which would have been avoided with earlier treatment. Most of our clients need the assistance of different medical specialists, such as physiotherapists, neuropsychologists, psychologists and speech and language therapists. In some of our cases, negligence has resulted in a need for full time care and the cost of this has to be considered within the claim.
If you have concerns about encephalitis, or would like further information on pursuing a claim connected to this condition, our specialist team may be able to help.