Chamki Fever (Encephalitis): Causes, Symptoms and Prevention


Encephalitis, popularly known as chamki fever in India, has turned out to be a deadly type of fever that has resulted in the death of 162 children in Bihar. So what does this fever do to you and how does it affect children and adults at large are questions that we need to know. Well, this fever causes inflammation, swelling and irritation in the brain and thus knowing its origin is what will give us an insight into how this fever has been a killing force in the country.

Chamki Fever

What is Chamki Fever?

Chamki fever or encephalitis in simple terms means brain fever that is generally caused by a viral infection that affects the immune system. A person suffering from this fever will witness symptoms such as severe headache, confused state of mind, seizures including problems with senses and body movement. Though this a rare disease it can be life-threatening and can be cured with timely diagnosis and proper treatment. Also, none can predict in what exact manner it could affect an individual depending on each body condition.

How Did Chamki Fever Enter India?

This fever is said to have originated by malnourished children consuming lychee fruit. This fruit has the capability to trigger hypoglycemia and seizures if it is consumed by malnourished children. Though this disease is not contagious, it has the tendency to affect a person’s immune system that can leave the person battling with a serious disease. Moreover, a study conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) had the same reason for this deadly fever to enter the country.

What was the Cause Behind Chamki Fever?

The Union Health Minister of Bihar set up a team of researchers to trace the origin of this deadly fever in 12 districts of the state. Later, researchers had found that this fever affects adults who have a weak immune system and as a result, it slowly begins to affect the neurological function of the body thereby causing mental problems such as confusion and seizures. However, here is what the team of health researchers had found.

  • Inflammation in the brain was caused due to infection or virus found in the immune system. This infection had led to brain fever and ending in the death of the person.
  • Some of the other viruses that have caused this fever were herpes virus, tick-borne virus, west nile and enteroviruses.
  • There were certain cases identified as acute encephalitis syndrome that was caused by Japanese virus, Zika and Nipah viruses.

Symptoms of Chamki Fever

There are several viruses that can attack your immune system causing encephalitis. These symptoms depend from children to adults as it affects different ages of people in different ways. So, how do I know if I am suffering from encephalitis/chamki fever? Well, here are some symptoms that you will need to watch out for.

Symptoms in Children

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Irritability
  • Body stiffness
  • Not waking up for a feeding

Symptoms in Adults

  • Muscle ache and severe joint pain
  • Extreme tiredness (Fatigue)
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Seizures
  • Paralysis and loss of senses
  • Confusion and hallucination
  • Loss of memory
  • State of coma or even death
  • Drowsiness

Note: Sometimes this fever can turn life-threatening for a person such that he/she may begin facing problems such as a confused state of mind, seizures problems pertaining to one’s speech and body movements. If you begin facing such problems, then make it a point to consult a doctor at the earliest.

Viruses that Cause Chamki Fever

Encephalitis or chamki fever has multiple causes and one of the main causes is because of viral infection that can affect your immune system and leave you with a life-threatening mental problem. Here are some viruses that can cause this deadly fever.

Virus Name Definition 
Mosquito-Borne Viruses Mosquito bites can be dangerous as it can cause infections such as west nile and La crosse etc. These viruses have the capability to can attack your immune system and leave you with a life-threatening illness.
Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) It has two types in it namely HSV 1 & HSV 2. Type 1 HSV is rare and can cause chamki fever, brain damage or even death.
Enteroviruses This virus causes a number of infections that are usually mild. Sometimes, it can result in dangerous symptoms like inflammation in the eye, abdominal pain or even attack your central nervous system.
Tick-Borne Viruses This virus is usually carried by ticks that can cause encephalitis. There have been a number of cases that have been recorded in the United States. In simple terms, this virus affects you after an infected tick has bitten you. The virus that ticks infect humans is called Powassan virus.
Rabies Virus This virus is usually transmitted by the bite of an infected animal. This virus is so deadly that it can spread quickly and that can result in loss of life. However, this virus can rarely cause encephalitis, but it does have a tendency to affect your immune system. Moreover, vaccination can safeguard you from danger.

How To Prevent Chamki Fever?

The best way to prevent this deadly fever is by taking simple precautionary measures on a daily basis. However, here are some simple preventive tips that keep you safe.

  • Be Hygienic: Make sure that you wash your hands frequently using hand sanitiser/soap before and after meals. 
  • Use Insect Repellants: Apply insect repellent on your hands and legs and this will protect you from those dangerous mosquitoes carrying a deadly virus. Mosquito-borne viruses are one of the main reasons for chamki fever and you need to keep yourself safe from this deadly menace.
  • Do Not Share Utensils: Avoid sharing the same utensils such as table plates and drinking glasses that can act as a source for the infection to spread.
  • Get Vaccinations: Consult a doctor before you get your child vaccinated. This would prevent you from any sort of virus that may infect you in the future.

Note: Since mosquito-borne viruses are the main reason for encephalitis world-wide, it is recommended that you wear full sleeves shirts and keep yourself covered. This will keep your body covered and protect you from those dangerous mosquito bites.

With the death of over 162 children in Bihar, there has been an ongoing debate as to how this deadly fever emerged to be a devastating illness in the country. You need to understand that this cannot be transmitted or spread, instead, it is a virus that attacks a person solely. All we can do is take preventive measures and practice hygienic ways that can help us counter this disease.


Here are some frequently asked questions that will shed some insight into encephalitis and its other facets.

  1. When do I have to see a doctor if I have encephalitis? 

The symptoms of encephalitis depend on the severity and mildness of the condition you are in. However, make it a point to consult a doctor if you are experiencing dizziness, severe headache, fever and confused state of mind.

  1. Can anyone get encephalitis?

Anyone can get encephalitis irrespective of age. Also, a person with a weak immune system can develop this disease quite easily. Different places including climatic changes can affect an individual with encephalitis. The first sign that you might be suffering from encephalitis is that you may have a fever. You need to understand that the fevers that you get today are all abnormal and as a fact, it is advised that you consult a doctor at the earliest.

  1. How long does encephalitis last?

In its severest form, this deadly fever can last for not more than a week, but it would take one month or more for the person to recover from it.

  1. How does encephalitis affect your brain?

Once the virus has entered your bloodstream, they tend to multiply and spread to various other organs of the body including your brain. However, the brain is the main organ that gets affected as the virus is carried through the blood-brain barrier and enters into the brain cells. This infects brain cells and damages your body motion and other senses stimulated by the brain.

  1. How is viral encephalitis treated? 

Since most viral diseases are difficult to treat, most antiviral medications aim to reduce the severity of the symptoms. This is how you would be treated if you are suffering from viral encephalitis.

  • You will be hospitalised
  • Antiviral medication will be given intravenously.
  • Medication to prevent vomiting
  • Pain killer medication will be given
  • Medication to prevent seizures, dehydration and reduce fever will be given.
  1. Can encephalitis cause permanent brain damage? 

Since this disease causes inflammation in the brain, it leads to permanent brain damage and can also lead to the death of the person. If you sense any of the above-listed symptoms, then it is recommended that you consult a doctor at the earliest.


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