What Is Japanese Encephalitis? 5 Things You Should Know

What Is Japanese Encephalitis? 5 Things You Should Know

Japanese encephalitis is a type of flavivirus that is spread to a person through a mosquito bite. 

A flavivirus does not have a DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) structure, but instead, has an RNA (ribonucleic acid) structure. Japanese encephalitis is closely related to yellow fever, which is also known as a flavivirus. It is given this name because flavus is the Latin word for yellow. 

A mosquito catches Japanese encephalitis after sucking the blood from an infected animal. The main carriers of the virus are pigs, horses, and water birds.  

To help you understand a little more about Japanese encephalitis and why it may be necessary for you to have a vaccination against the disease, we have summarised five important facts to consider.


1) The Disease Can Infect The Brain

Brain surgeon looking at scan of the brain

As previously mentioned, the most common cause of someone catching Japanese encephalitis is after being bitten by a mosquito. 

In serious cases, around five to fifteen days after infection, symptoms can become severe as the disease spreads to the brain. It can cause the brain to inflame which can lead to headaches, sickness, and seizures. 

It can take several months for the infected to fully recover, but many are left with permanent brain damage.


2) Symptoms Of Japanese Encephalitis

Woman feeling ill, sitting on the floor with pillow on her lap

Once a person is infected, they can experience various symptoms, often mild and brief. In most cases, a person may suffer flu-like symptoms.

Some of the symptoms a person can experience after catching Japanese encephalitis  are as follows:

  • Confusion
  • Muscle weakness
  • High temperature
  • Seizures
  • An inability to speak

Once a person experiences some or all of the above they will have an increased risk of dying.

75% of those infected with Japanese encephalitis are children under the age of 15.


3) Areas Where The Disease Is Found

Magnifying glass on a map of the globe

Japanese encephalitis is not as commonly found in Japan as it once was. 

Certain areas in the world are considered to be at high risk since they are where most cases of Japanese encephalitis are reported. Caution should be taken when travelling to the below areas:

– China

– Thailand

– Vietnam

– India

– Indonesia

– Malaysia

– Cambodia

– Sri Lanka

There’s an increased risk of catching Japanese encephalitis during and just after the rainy seasons. 

Additionally, the disease is more common in rural areas, particularly where rice is grown or near pig farms.

It’s vitally important for people to be cautious when travelling in the rainy season, particularly if they will be taking part in activities that can increase the risk of becoming infected, such as cycling, climbing, or hiking. 


4) Ways To Prevent Catching Japanese Encephalitis

Mosquito sucking blood from human

There are several things an unvaccinated person can do to lower the risk of catching Japanese encephalitis:

– Avoid exposing too much skin by wearing long-sleeved tops and trousers

– Apply an insect repellant

– Stay indoors at dawn and dusk

– Place a screen over any windows and doors

– Use a mosquito net

– Spray insecticide (following the instructions on the bottle)

– Burn coffee grounds (this is also good at repelling other insects, such as bees and wasps)

– Light lavender candles or leave crushed lavender around your room (this acts as a natural repellent to mosquitoes)


5) Japanese Encephalitis Vaccine

Doctor vaccinating a patient in a clinic

Currently, there is no cure for Japanese encephalitis.

If a person is bitten by a mosquito, a blood test can be done to see if they’ve become infected with the disease. Then, if the results show that the person has caught Japanese encephalitis, medical treatment will be offered; however, this is only focused on supporting their bodily functions while they overcome the infection.

While there is no cure for the disease, there is a vaccine available.

The Japanese encephalitis vaccine is recommended for travellers going to Asia, the western Pacific Islands, the borders of Pakistan, northeastern China, the islands of Torres Strait, and northeastern Australia. 

The vaccine is particularly important for those who will be staying in any of the above areas for a long period (typically over a month).

The Japanese encephalitis vaccine is given through a course of two injections. 

The second dose is administered twenty-eight days after the first, and it should, ideally, be planned so that you receive the second dose around seven days before you travel. 

To allow plenty of time, you should have your first appointment at least six weeks before you’re due to travel.

The Japanese encephalitis vaccine is not 100% effective so you should try to protect yourself by taking the precautions mentioned previously.

If you’d like to be vaccinated against Japanese encephalitis, then there are private clinics that offer this vaccination at varying costs. 

The Travel Health Clinic offers several travel vaccinations, so if you’re planning on travelling to any high-risk areas, then book your Japanese encephalitis vaccination appointment today.


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