Japanese Encephalitis Traveller’s Guide

.tags What is Japanese encephalitis and how serious can it be?

Japanese encephalitis is a viral infection that is spread by mosquitoes. Encephalitis means infection and swelling of the brain. The virus is present in rural areas of Asia, particularly where there are rice fields and pig farms. It is sometimes found in urban areas too.

Despite the name, this disease has been nearly eradicated in Japan (and Korea, Singapore and Taiwan). However it remains a problem in many other Asian countries.

Japanese encephalitis symptoms?

Many people who have the virus do not get symptoms. Most infections result in mild, flu-like symptoms, or no symptoms at all.
Early symptoms may include:
Temperature over 38C or 100.4F

Approximately 1 in 200 infections result in severe disease.
The illness can progress to infection and swelling of the brain. Sadly, about 30% of people who reach this stage do not survive.

What to do if you are worried that you’ve got Japanese encephalitis

You should seek immediate medical attention if you notice any of the signs and symptoms described above.

If a travel health nurse has told you that there is a risk vaccination is recommended for you, there is no doubt that your travel plans put you at risk from Japanese encephalitis.

If they say you should consider Japanese encephalitis vaccination you need to weigh-up the risk and cost of the vaccine against the potential risk. Many people prefer to take no chances with their health.

Travel health nurse advice is based on:
Whether it is a problem in the place you are travelling to
Your chance of coming into contact with it
The medical facilities available if you were to become infected
The duration of your stay

All travel vaccination recommendations can change because of disease outbreaks and seasonal variations, but travel health nurses have access to daily updates and are specialists in travel health services.

Arrange this vaccinations six weeks before you travel

The full course of Japanese encephalitis vaccines is given over 28 days. Two or three doses may be recommended depending on the brand of vaccine used. Protection against the disease is expected to develop approximately 7-10 days after the last dose. Check with the travel health nurse when to get the booster vaccine if you are going to return to the risk areas or stay there for a long time.

If you have made your travel plans late and have less than a month before you travel, contact your Travel Clinic immediately. They may be able to recommend an alternative, based on the time available.

Japanese encephalitis protection: summary of action to be taken

Get vaccinated, ideally six weeks before you travel

Take measures to protect yourself from insect bites

Cover skin with loose-fitting clothing. Use repellents and nets. Dusk to dawn are the high-risk times.