All cases fulfilling stated criteria for encephalitis and aseptic meningitis in Olmsted County, Minnesota, for the period 1950 through 1981 were identified. This is, to our knowledge, the first such incidence and trend study in a delineated population, providing rates per 100,000 person-years of 7.4 for encephalitis (189 cases) and 10.9 for aseptic meningitis (283 cases). These are about twelve and six times higher, respectively, than the rates reported by the Centers for Disease Control. The rates have been stable over successive 5- or 10-year periods except for a recent increase in aseptic meningitis. Both conditions were more common in the summer months, in childhood, and among males. Viral identification using conventional laboratory tests has improved with time; in the period 1970 through 1981, virus type was specified in about one-fourth of the cases. The most common agents identified were California and mumps viruses in encephalitis, and entero and mumps viruses in aseptic meningitis. Antecedent and/or concurrent infections were noted in 42 and 35% of encephalitis and aseptic meningitis cases, respectively. No case due to mumps, measles, or rubella viruses has occurred since 1972, reflecting the impact of immunizations. Recovery was reported at the end of the acute phase in 95% of patients with aseptic meningitis, and there were no deaths. Seventy-eight percent of encephalitis patients recovered completely; the case fatality rate was 3.8%. Of the encephalitis cases, 2% were diagnosed initially postmortem.