Enterovirus-Associated Encephalitis in the California Encephalitis Project, 1998-2005

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Encephalitis is a relatively rare presentation of enterovirus (EV) infections. Clinical and epidemiologic characteristics of EV encephalitis (EVE) have not been well characterized.


Patients with encephalitis enrolled in the California Encephalitis Project from 1998 to 2005 were tested for a range of pathogens, including EV, using a standardized diagnostic algorithm. EVE was categorized as “confirmed” (EV detected in cerebrospinal fluid [CSF] or brain tissue) or “possible” (EV found in respiratory or fecal specimens or serum EV immunoglobulin [Ig] M detected). We compared clinical and epidemiologic characteristics of EVE with those of other infectious encephalitis cases.


EVE was diagnosed in 73 (4.6%) of 1571 patients (45 confirmed cases, 28 possible cases); 11.1% of cases had other infectious causes. Patients with confirmed EVE were younger, although 27% were adults, who presented with significantly less severe symptoms. Serotypes identified in EVE cases correlated with the predominant serotype for the given year reported to the National Enterovirus Surveillance System at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Two of 4 fatal EVE cases were associated with EV71.


EVs are an important cause of encephalitis cases requiring hospitalization, in both children and adults. Our data suggest that EVE severity varies by serotype, confirm the importance of CSF/brain tissue polymerase chain reaction, and demonstrate that serum IgM findings are of little value in diagnosing EVE.

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