Encephalitis generally results in a serious illness requiring hospitalization. The aim of this study was to describe the epidemiology of hospitalization for encephalitis in Italy, taking into account the geographical distribution, aetiology, seasonality and evolution of hospitalization rates over recent years. The mean hospitalization rate was 5·88/100 000. For most of these hospitalizations (n=13 119, 55·6%), no specific cause of encephalitis was reported. The most common aetiological category was ‘viral’, which accounted for 40·1% (n=4205) of such hospitalizations (rate 1·05/100 000). Within this category, herpes virus was the leading causative agent (n=1579, 0·39/100 000). This report highlights a significant increase of ‘viral encephalitis not otherwise specified’ (ICD-9 code 049·9) vs. a reduction of all other causes. A seasonal pattern was noted in people aged ⩾65 years in this group. Specific surveillance of encephalitis without known origin should be reinforced in order to identify the potential role of emerging pathogens and to design preventive interventions.
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