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The term primary encephalitis is applied to cases of inflammation of the brain not accompanied by physical or chemical injury, bacterial or parasitic infection or tumor. These cases present evidence of the presence of an agent which affects primarily and directly the brain tissue—fever, lymphocytes in the spinal fluid, clinical signs indicating involvement of brain cells and, at autopsy, mononuclear, polymorphonuclear and neuroglial cells beneath the meninges, about the blood vessels and surrounding necrotic nerve cells. Further clinical classification has proved difficult.
Recently, advances have been made in grouping these conditions according to the virus causing them. By 1881 rabies was proved to be due to a virus which attacked chiefly nerve tissue; in 1909 poliomyelitis was shown to be due to a virus with a special predilection for the spinal cord and brain. In 1917 a summer epidemic of disease of the central nervous system among children in Australia,
WEBSTER LT. CLASSIFICATION OF PRIMARY ENCEPHALITIDES OF MAN ACCORDING TO VIRUS ETIOLOGY: PRESENT STATUS. JAMA. 1941;116(26):2840–2841. doi:10.1001/jama.1941.02820260014004
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