The best way to prevent viral encephalitis is to take precautions to avoid exposure to viruses that can cause the disease. Try to:
- Practice good hygiene. Wash hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water, particularly after using the toilet and before and after meals.
- Don't share utensils. Don't share tableware and beverages.
- Teach your children good habits. Make sure they practice good hygiene and avoid sharing utensils at home and school.
- Get vaccinations. Keep your own and your children's vaccinations current. Before traveling, talk to your doctor about recommended vaccinations for different destinations.
Protection against mosquitoes and ticks
To minimize your exposure to mosquitoes and ticks:
- Dress to protect yourself. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants if you're outside between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active, and when you're in a wooded area with tall grasses and shrubs where ticks are more common.
- Apply mosquito repellent. Chemicals such as DEET can be applied to both the skin and clothes. To apply repellent to your face, spray it on your hands and then wipe it on your face. If you're using both sunscreen and a repellent, apply sunscreen first.
- Use insecticide. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends the use of products containing permethrin, which repels and kills ticks and mosquitoes. These products can be sprayed on clothing, tents and other outdoor gear. Permethrin shouldn't be applied to the skin.
- Avoid mosquitoes. Refrain from unnecessary activity in places where mosquitoes are most common. If possible, avoid being outdoors from dusk till dawn, when mosquitoes are most active. Repair broken windows and screens.
- Get rid of water sources outside your home. Eliminate standing water in your yard, where mosquitoes can lay their eggs. Common problems include flowerpots or other gardening containers, flat roofs, old tires and clogged gutters.
- Look for outdoor signs of viral disease. If you notice sick or dying birds or animals, report your observations to your local health department.
Protection for young children
Insect repellents aren't recommended for use on infants younger than 2 months of age. Instead, cover an infant carrier or stroller with mosquito netting.
For older infants and children, repellents with 10 to 30 percent DEET are considered safe. Products containing both DEET and sunscreen aren't recommended for children because reapplication — which might be necessary for the sunscreen component — will expose the child to too much DEET.
Tips for using mosquito repellent with children include:
- Always assist children with the use of mosquito repellent.
- Spray on clothing and exposed skin.
- Apply the repellent when outdoors to lessen the risk of inhaling the repellent.
- Spray repellent on your hands and then apply it to your child's face. Take care around the eyes and ears.
- Don't use repellent on the hands of young children who may put their hands in their mouths.
- Wash treated skin with soap and water when you come indoors.
June 13, 2017
- Bennett JE, et al. Encephalitis. In: Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2015. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Jan. 24, 2017.
- Hardarson HS. Acute viral encephalitis in children: Clinical manifestations and diagnosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 31, 2017.
- Ferri FF. Encephalitis, acute viral. In: Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2017. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier; 2017. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Jan. 24, 2017.
- AskMayoExpert. Viral encephalitis. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2016.
- Gluckman SJ. Viral encephalitis in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 24, 2017.
- Meningitis and encephalitis fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Meningitis-and-Encephalitis-Fact-Sheet. Accessed Feb. 1, 2017.
- Dorsett M, et al. Diagnosis and treatment of central nervous system infections in the emergency department. Emergency Medical Clinics of North America. 2016;34:917.
- Patel H, et al. Long-term sequelae of West Nile virus-related illness: A systematic review. The Lancet Infections Diseases. 2015;15:951.
- Hardarson HS. Acute viral encephalitis in children: Treatment and prevention. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 31, 2017.
- Daroff RB, et al. Viral encephalitis and meningitis. In: Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2016. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Feb. 1, 2017.
- Zachary KC. Acyclovir: An overview. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 1, 2017.
- Breisch N. Prevention of arthropod and insect bites: Repellents and other measures. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 31, 2017.
- West Nile virus FAQ: Insect repellant use and safety. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/westnile/faq/repellent.html. Accessed Feb. 1, 2017.
- West Nile virus: Prevention & control. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/westnile/prevention/index.html. Accessed Feb. 1, 2017.
- Riggin EA. Allscripts EPSi. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 24, 2017.
- Howe CL, et al. Neuroprotection mediated by inhibition of calpain during acute viral encephalitis. Scientific Reports. 2016;6:28699.
- Singh TD, et al. Predictors of outcome in HSV encephalitis. Journal of Neurology. 2016;263:277.
- Wormser GP, et al. Update and commentary on four emerging tick-borne infections. Infectious Disease Clinics of North America. 2015;29:371.