Japanese encephalitis differential diagnosis

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Anthony Gallo, B.S. [2]


Japanese encephalitis must be differentiated from other diseases that cause nondescript symptoms, which include fever, headache, and vomiting, such as meningitis, brain abscess, and other demyelinating diseases.

Differentiating Japanese encephalitis from Other Diseases

Japanese encephalitis must be differentiated from other diseases that cause fever, headache, and vomiting, such as:[1][2][3][4][5]

Disease Similarities Differentials
Meningitis Classic triad of fever, nuchal rigidity, and altered mental status Photophobia, phonophobia, rash associated with meningococcemia, concomitant sinusitis or otitis, swelling of the fontanelle in infants (0-6 months)
Brain abscess Fever, headache, hemiparesis Varies depending on the location of the abscess; clinically, visual disturbance including papilledema, decreased sensation; on imaging, a lesion demonstrates both ring enhancement and central restricted diffusion
Demyelinating diseases Ataxia, lethargy Multiple sclerosis: clinically, nystagmus, internuclear ophthalmoplegia, Lhermitte's sign; on imaging, well-demarcated ovoid lesions with possible T1 hypointensities (“black holes”)

Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis: clinically, somnolence, myoclonic movements, and hemiparesis; on imaging, diffuse or multi-lesion enhancement, with indistinct lesion borders

Substance abuse Tremor, headache, altered mental status Varies depending on type of substance: prior history, drug-seeking behavior, attention-seeking behavior, paranoia, sudden panic, anxiety, hallucinations
Electrolyte disturbance Fatigue, headache, nausea Varies depending on deficient ions; clinically, edema, constipation, hallucinations; on EKG, abnormalities in T wave, P wave, QRS complex; possible presentations include arrhythmia, dehydration, renal failure
Stroke Ataxia, aphasia, dizziness Varies depending on classification of stroke; presents with positional vertigo, high blood pressure, extremity weakness
Intracranial hemorrhage Headache, coma, dizziness Lobar hemorrhage, numbness, tingling, hypertension, hemorrhagic diathesis
Trauma Headache, altered mental status Amnesia, loss of consciousness, dizziness, concussion, contusion


  1. M.D. JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, Expert Consult Premium Edition. Saunders; 2014.
  2. Kennedy PG (2004). "Viral encephalitis: causes, differential diagnosis, and management". J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 75 Suppl 1: i10–5. PMC 1765650. PMID 14978145.
  3. Arboviral Infections (arthropod-borne encephalitis, eastern equine encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis, California encephalitis, Powassan encephalitis, West Nile encephalitis). New York State Department of Health (2006). https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/arboviral/fact_sheet.htm Accessed on February 23, 2016
  4. Eckstein C, Saidha S, Levy M (2012). "A differential diagnosis of central nervous system demyelination: beyond multiple sclerosis". J Neurol. 259 (5): 801–16. doi:10.1007/s00415-011-6240-5. PMID 21932127.
  5. De Kruijk JR, Twijnstra A, Leffers P (2001). "Diagnostic criteria and differential diagnosis of mild traumatic brain injury". Brain Inj. 15 (2): 99–106. doi:10.1080/026990501458335. PMID 11260760.