Encephalitis Lethargica

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, epidemic outbreaks, like encephalitis lethargica, that affected India in the past are being discussed.

About the Disease

Encephalitis Lethargica, also known as sleepy sickness or encephalitis A or Economo encephalitis, is a disease of the nervous system. It is different from the African sleeping sickness transmitted by the tsetse flies. Scientists have reported that the disease is caused by an enterovirus.


It is a disease that affects the central nervous system and the grey matter. Some of its symptoms are lethargy, high fever, sore throat, sleep inversion (reversal of sleeping tendencies), double vision, headache, delayed response, behavioural changes, etc. In severe cases, coma can also occur.

The 1915 to 1926 Pandemic

The pandemic in 1915 had spread across Europe, USA, Central America, Canada and India. It was first discovered in Vienna and the causative virus appeared to spread by nasal and oral secretions. It claimed the lives of approximately 1.5 million people. In India, the diseases manifested in a sporadic manner.


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