Image from Centers for Disease Control and Prenvention website
Japanese Encephalitis or JE is a rare virus that could be transmitted through mosquito bites.
It occurs in subtropical regions of Asia including Japan, Korea, northern Vietnam, Thailand and in tropical regions such as in South East Asia. JE is very rare, but rare doesn’t mean never.
A Melbourne gentleman died from JE in June this year after visiting Thailand and is the 10th reported case of JE in Australia. He stayed in Phuket for 10 days and began feeling unwell on the eight day.
When he returned home, he suffered from symptoms including confusion, headaches and repeatedly falling asleep. He was admitted to Royal Melbourne Hospital and died in Intensive Care Unit.
The last case of JE in Australia was back in 2015 when a Victorian man visited Canggu in Bali for a week.
So should travellers going to Asia get the JE vaccine? It’s a challenging question that needs to be discussed.
Typically, for a short time travel in Asia, risks as so low travellers are not generally recommended with the vaccination.
It would be recommended for those staying for a longer time, planning to do outdoor activities or staying in rice- growing rural areas more than month
However, there are outliers, those extraordinarily unlucky ones who were infected although the risks were thought to be low including:
– German woman who visited Bali for 2 weeks was infected in 2011
– In 2013, two people stayed in Thailand for 3 weeks was infected
These 3 people did not visit villages with rice fields or pig farming and their itineraries did not pose high risks of acquiring JE.
The Australian Immunisation Handbook receommends JE vaccination for travellers:
Spending 1 month or more in rural areas of high- risk countries in Asia and Papua New Guinea. However, as JE occured in travellers after shorter- term travel, JE vaccination should be considered for shorter term travellers, particularly if the travel is during the wet season, or anticipated to be repeated, and/ or considerable outdoor activity, and/ or the accommodation is not mosquito proof.
All other travellers spending a year or more in Asia (except Singapore), even if much of the stay is in urban areas.
There are vaccinations available to protect against JE. For queries with the vaccines call us on 9221 4242.
For more information with Japanese encephalitis, please visit the WHO website.