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Diseases

Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

Encephalitis lethargica


Other Names for this Disease
  • Von Economo’s disease
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Your Question

When I was about 8-years-old, I was hospitalized due to encephalitis lethargica. I was extremely ill and it took me a long time to recover. Last May, I was diagnosed with a benign meningioma. Could my childhood illness be related to the development of my tumor? Are there any documented cases of meningioma in other survivors of encephalitis lethargica?

Our Answer

We have identified the following information that we hope you find helpful. If you still have questions, please contact us.

What is encephalitis lethargica?

Encephalitis lethargica (EL) is a disease characterized by high fever, headache, double vision, delayed physical and mental response, extreme tiredness (lethargy), and sometimes coma. Patients may also experience abnormal eye movements, upper body weakness, muscle pain, tremors, neck rigidity, and behavioral changes including psychosis. A worldwide epidemic of EL occurred from 1917 to 1928 with more than one million reported cases.[1][2] Although occasional cases are reported with similar symptoms, EL epidemics have not recurred.[1] The cause of this condition is unknown, but a viral origin is suspected.[2] Treatment depends on a person's symptoms. Levodopa and other antiparkinson drugs may be effective in alleviating some symptoms.[1]
Last updated: 6/7/2016

Are there any documented cases of meningioma in survivors of encephalitis lethargica?

After an extensive review of the medical literature, we were not able to find a report of meningioma occurring in a survivor of encephalitis lethargica (EL). As the majority of cases occurred between 1917 and 1928, there may be a lack of data in the medical literature reporting symptoms of survivors of EL. If you are interested in searching for journal articles on encephalitis lethargica, you can use the online PubMed database. We have included a sample search on our resource page for encephalitis lethargica.
Last updated: 6/7/2016

References
Other Names for this Disease
  • Von Economo’s disease
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.