(We have also put together a live blog on Covid-19 which can be seen here)

A statement on Covid-19 from the Encephalitis Society (updated Tuesday, May 5)

There are confirmed reports of an association between COVID-19 and central nervous system (CNS) damage: Asadi-Pooya et al. J Neurological Sciences, 2020. In particular there are reports detailing headache, anosmia, altered mental staus, seizures, myelitis, neuro-muscular disorders, muscle injury and unfortunately encephalitis.

We were first made aware of a case of a 56-year-old male in China who developed COVID-19 and went on to have the virus found in his cerebrospinal fluid (CSF): Xiang et al. unpublished, 2020. The patient recovered and was discharged from hospital. Despite being reported in the media this case remains unpublished in peer-reviewed literature as far as we know (1). Since then more reports have begun to emerge in the peer-reviewed, published literature of covid-19 positive patients and meningo-encephalitis: 

Moriguchi, Int J Inf Dis, 2020; Duong, Brain Behav Immun, 2020;

Ye M et al,  Brain Behav Immun, 2020; Bernard-Valnet R et al. medRxiv (preprint, 2020);

The case reports to date suggest these are possibly rare CNS involvement of SARS-CoV-2. It is cautioned that these reports should be interpreted with caution given an absence of diagnostic testing for other common viral aetiologies at the time and in some cases a lack of supportive, accompanying diagnostic testing.

We understand these cases will be a cause for concern among encephalitis survivors and their families however we urge our beneficiaries and those affected in others ways to try not to worry and feel stressed about these emerging findings. Our support services and teams remain at your service, where you can phone, email us, chat online, or visit one of our digital gatherings online.

Importantly, some people who have or have recently had autoimmune encephalitis may still have immune systems that are compromised and/or they may also be taking medication that suppresses their immune system. Please listen to our podcast for more information about the risks and how you can keep yourself safe.

You can also access a range of other coronavirus and covid-19 resources including ones to help support your mental health and well-being during this difficult time. 

The symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • a cough
  • a high temperature
  • shortness of breath

But these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness. The symptoms are similar to other illnesses that are much more common, such as cold and flu.

If you think you may have COVID-19 you must follow the latest guidelines for the country in which you live. You can also take positive action by doing the following:


  • wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
  • always wash your hands when you get home or into work
  • use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterwards
  • try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell


  • do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean

The Encephalitis Society will continue to monitor developments closely through the information provided by the World Health OrganizationPublic Health England, the CDC, and the other international bodies.

Dr Benedict Michael, Vice Chair of the Scientific Advisory Panel - Encephalitis Society

Dr Ava Easton, Chief Executive of the Encephalitis Society.

(1) http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2020-03/05/c_138846529.htm