Relapsed and late-onset Nipah encephalitis



An outbreak of infection with the Nipah virus, a novel paramyxovirus, occurred among pig farmers between September 1998 and June 1999 in Malaysia, involving 265 patients with 105 fatalities. This is a follow-up study 24 months after the outbreak. Twelve survivors (7.5%) of acute encephalitis had recurrent neurological disease (relapsed encephalitis). Of those who initially had acute nonencephalitic or asymptomatic infection, 10 patients (3.4%) had late-onset encephalitis. The mean interval between the first neurological episode and the time of initial infection was 8.4 months. Three patients had a second neurological episode. The onset of the relapsed or late-onset encephalitis was usually acute. Common clinical features were fever, headache, seizures, and focal neurological signs. Four of the 22 relapsed and late-onset encephalitis patients (18%) died. Magnetic resonance imaging typically showed patchy areas of confluent cortical lesions. Serial single-photon emission computed tomography showed the evolution of focal hyperperfusion to hypoperfusion in the corresponding areas. Necropsy of 2 patients showed changes of focal encephalitis with positive immunolocalization for Nipah virus antigens but no evidence of perivenous demyelination. We concluded that a unique relapsing and remitting encephalitis or late-onset encephalitis may result as a complication of persistent Nipah virus infection in the central nervous system.