Fewer Children in Hospital with Encephalitis

30 October 2015

The number of children admitted to hospitals across Australia with encephalitis decreased significantly over a decade, in part due to the high levels of varicella immunisation since 2006. “ Varicella (chicken pox) associated encephalitis is one of the most common recognised causes of encephalitis in children,”  said  Dr Philip Britton.

The number of children admitted to hospitals across Australia with encephalitis decreases significantly over a decade, in part due to the high levels of varicella immunisation since 2006. “ Varicella (chicken pox) associated encephalitis is one of the most common recognised causes of encephalitis in children,”  said  Dr Philip Britton.  “This is a the first study at a population level to show the effect of immunisation in reducing this severe complication of varicella.“

The research team, led by Dr Philip Britton and Professor Cheryl Jones, looked at national hospital admissions for encephalitis for children under 14 from 2000-2014 and looked at trends by year and across age, gender and location, cause and indigenous status.  The other researchers are Dr Lynette Khoury, Prof Robert  Booy and Dr Nicholas Wood.

The study also showed, however, that 58.9% of hospital admissions for encephalitis had no specified cause identified.   Babies under I year have the highest admission rates and this varied according to location, with the highest rates in the Northern Territory. The research team from the Children’s Hospital at Westmead and University of Sydney has now embarked on a national study of childhood encephalitis to address ongoing gaps in knowledge with regard to the causes and consequences of childhood encephalitis.

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