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Japanese encephalitis

Japanese encephalitis


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Japanese encephalitis (JE) is an inflammation of the brain caused by a flavivirus. The disease is transmitted to humans by Culex mosquitoes in Asia. Dengue and yellow fever are other examples of diseases caused by flavivirus. JE was first recognised in Japan in the late 1800s, but the first major epidemic was present in 1924. However since then, JE has been increasingly recognised throughout most countries of East and SouthEast Asia.

Factors that favour the disease may include: environmental conditions necessary for the mosquito breeding cycle ( for example rainfall, humidity and tropical temperatures), mosquito habitats ( for example swamps and rice-growing fields) and the presence of the amplifying hosts ( pigs and birds)

Japanese encephalitis in UK travellers

There have been two reported cases of Japanese encephalitis in UK travellers. The first was a British woman who was residing and working in Hong Kong and was diagnosed with JE in 1982. She later died as a result of heart and respiratory complications. The second was also a woman who had been to Thailand in 1994. She however, fully recovered after 4 months.

Risk for travellers

The risk for travellers varies and depends on factors such as destination, duration, season and activities. Certain activities, even if it is a short trip can increase the travellers risk for example significant rural, outdoor or night time exposure e.g. camping or cycling.


The Japanese encephalitis virus is transmitted to humans from animals and birds through the bite of an infected Culex mosquito. These mosquitoes mainly feed during the night, from dusk till dawn. The main hosts are pigs and wading birds.

Signs and symptoms

The majority of cases of Japanese encephalitis are non-specific or asymptomatic. The incubation period is around 5 to 15 days and some of the presenting symptoms may include fever, headache, confusion and convulsions.


You can reduce the risk of acquiring JE by insect bite avoidance methods, especially during dusk and dawn, where the Culex mosquito is most active. A Japanese encephalitis vaccine is also available which is recommended to those individuals who intend to stay for long periods in rural endemic areas during the transmission season, or for those whose planned activities will increase the risk of acquiring JE ( please see vaccine recommendations below)

Japanese encephalitis vaccine information

JE vaccine is recommended for:

Patients who are going to reside in an area where Japanese encephalitis is endemic or epidemic;

Travellers who are planning to stay a month or longer in the risk area during the transmission season, especially if travel will include rural areas;

Travellers who have a shorter itinerary if risk is considered sufficient, for example, those spending time in rice fields ( where the mosquito vector breeds), or close to pig farms.

If you want more information or require the vaccine for travel purposes, please book an appointment to speak to our trained pharmacist.

Additional information
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Japanese encephalitis

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