There are many organisms, viruses, fungi and parasites which can cause infection in the brain and spinal cord. Some of the most commonly seen brain infections include:
Other common brain infections include (i) Toxoplasmosis, caused by a parasite, and acquired by eating unwashed vegetables or undercooked meat or direct contact with cat feces, (ii) Cerebral cysticercosis, caused by the pork tapeworm, (iii) Trichinosis, caused by the roundworm parasite found in undercooked pork, (iv) Rubella (German measles) caused by the rubella virus, (v) Mumps, caused by a virus (vi) Rabies, a viral infection transmitted through animal bites, and (vii) AIDS or HIV, caused by the human immunodeficiency virus.
Various types of brain infections can develop different symptoms. However, in general, people older than 2 years with a bacterial infection might develop high fever, severe headaches, stiff neck, nausea and vomiting, discomfort looking into a bright light, a skin rash, confusion, sleepiness. Newborns may be unusually fussy, irritable, and sleepy. Seizures could also develop in the late stages of the disease.
Early diagnosis and treatment are extremely important with brain infections. The definitive diagnosis of meningitis is usually derived from a lumbar puncture, during which spinal fluid is obtained from a spinal tap and sent to a lab for analysis. A CT scan or other standard lab work and neurological examination may also be performed.
Treatment for the bacterial infection is usually accomplished through intravenous antibiotics. Steroids may also be given to reduce brain swelling. Acutely ill patients should be given I.V. antibiotics within 30 minutes of being evaluated in the emergency room.
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