Many viral infections can involve the central nervous systems (CNS) of fetuses, neonates, infants, and children. The pathogenesis, patterns of CNS involvement, and species of viral infection may differ in the developing fetus, infant and neonate, and early childhood. Familiarity with the clinical course and imaging appearances of the variable CNS diseases is helpful in making correct differential diagnoses and in prompting timely treatment. This article reviews the clinical courses, pathologic findings, and imaging features of the most common viral infections that may involve the CNS of neonates and infants, including congenital and neonatal CNS viral infections, common CNS viral infections, and parainfectious encephalomyelitis.
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