Raising awareness about encephalitis
Raising awareness about encephalitis

Professor Sarosh Irani, Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences

Raising awareness about encephalitis

Professor Sarosh Irani of the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences

Today – Wednesday, 22 February – is World Encephalitis Day.

Encephalitis is a brain condition which I have encountered many times throughout my career, witnessing first-hand the devastating impact that it can have on patients and their family and friends.

My team in Oxford work to improve the diagnosis, treatment and after-care for patients with autoimmune forms of encephalitis. Discoveries to improve patient care is what drives everyone in my research group and clinic, and is what led me to become a member of the Encephalitis Society’s Scientific Advisory Panel.

Our work has focused on the autoimmune forms of encephalitis, where one’s own immune system attacks the brain in error, leading to brain swelling. We work hard, with our patients and their carers, to better understand diagnosis, the underlying cause of the diseases and patient outcomes. We have over 150 publications in this area, and aim to produce many more over the next few years.

Another key aspect of my work is improving awareness of encephalitis among the general public and fellow healthcare professionals in the hope that it can eventually lead to a quicker pathway for patients to get the care they need.

Shockingly, a YouGov poll commissioned by the Encephalitis Society has found that around 8 out of 10 people do not know what encephalitis is, which is why I would like you to spare a few moments and read the following facts:

1. Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain
2. It is caused by an infection or through the immune system attacking the brain in error
3. Anyone can be affected by encephalitis, irrespective of age, gender or ethnicity
4. It can have a high death rate and survivors might be left with an acquired brain injury and life-changing consequences
5. In some cases, encephalitis can impact mental health, causing difficult to deal with emotions and behaviours, and can lead to thoughts of self-harm and even suicide

To add our support to this very important day on the calendar, my colleagues and I have been wearing red today as part of the Encephalitis Society’s #Red4WED social media campaign and, this evening, I am delighted to say that the University of Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum will be among 200 global landmarks, including Niagara Falls, Piccadilly Lights, and the CN Tower in Toronto, lighting up red for World Encephalitis Day.

Finally, if you are a social media user, I urge you to take some time this evening and search for the hashtags #WorldEncephalitisDay, #Red4WED and #encephalitis for a wonderful example of what can be achieved when a community comes together with a special goal in mind – to shine a light on encephalitis.

For more information, visit www.worldencephalitisday.org