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Open Access Highly Accessed Case report

Herpes encephalitis presenting as mild aphasia: Case report

Omar A Khan* and Allan Ramsay

Author Affiliations

Department of Family Medicine, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont 05405, USA

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BMC Family Practice 2006, 7:22  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-7-22

Published: 24 March 2006



Encephalitis presenting as a change in mental status can be challenging to recognize in the primary care setting. However, early detection via a low threshold of suspicion can be useful, leading in turn to early treatment and improved survival.

Case presentation

We present a case which we consider relevant to primary care practitioners. The patient in question presented with relatively mild mental status changes, progressing to confusion, dysnomia and delirium over a period of three days. While infection did not appear to be the leading cause on her differential diagnosis, she was found on extensive workup to have encephalitis caused by Herpes Simplex Virus type 1.


The case is instructive for general practitioners and other clinicians to maintain vigilance for central nervous system (CNS) infections which may present atypically.