Epidemiology of encephalitis in children. A prospective multicentre study

Eur J Pediatr. 1997 Jul;156(7):541-5. doi: 10.1007/s004310050658.


We found 175 cases with acute encephalitis in a population of 791,712 children aged 1 month-15 years during a 2-year surveillance period in 1993-1994. The overall incidence was 10.5/100,000 child-years with the highest figure in children < 1 year of age, 18.4/100,000 child-years. The microbial diagnosis was considered proven or suggested in 110 cases (63%); varicella zoster, respiratory and enteroviruses comprised 61% of these, and adeno, Epstein Barr-, herpes simplex and rota viruses comprised 5% each. A clearcut change seems to have occurred in the aetiology of encephalitis. Mumps, measles, and rubella virus associated encephalitides have been almost eliminated. Varicella zoster, respiratory, and enteroviruses have increased in frequency and occur in younger age groups. New causes were identified, especially Chlamydia pneumoniae and HHV-6. Our data should assist in making a specific diagnosis and defining appropriate antimicrobial therapy.

Conclusions: The spectrum of encephalitis in children has changed due to vaccination programs. The incidence, however, appears to be about the same due to increasing frequency of other associated old and new microbes.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adolescent
  • Age Distribution
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Encephalitis / epidemiology*
  • Encephalitis / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Seasons
  • Sex Distribution