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Infective processes in the brain, spinal cord and meninges are considered to be the main causes of encephalitis, myelitis and meningitis. However, most cases remain unexplained. The incidence of different viral aetiologies (zoonotic and non-zoonotic) is especially poorly estimated, due to the lack of a standard case definition and of agreed diagnostic algorithms, including harmonised diagnostic methods and sample collection. It is important to clarify the incidence of viral encephalitis/meningitis and to optimise the diagnosis of infectious neurological illness, particularly to ensure early recognition of outbreaks or emerging infections such as West Nile encephalitis. The European Network for Diagnostics of 'Imported' Viral Diseases (ENIVD) has analysed the present surveillance situation for viral encephalitis/meningitis in Europe. Here we give an overview of the existing epidemiological sources of information in European Union (EU) Member States, mapping the laboratory capacity and identifying key requirements for a possible future surveillance study at European level. The data presented will help design a harmonised/standardised Europe-wide surveillance study investigating patients with encephalitis and/or meningitis in order to obtain more information on the role of infections in these rarely analysed syndromes, both from a clinical and an epidemiological perspective. .


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