Japanese encephalitis is an infectious disease that is prevalent only in Asia and north-eastern Australia. The disease is caused by a virus.
How do you contract Japanese encephalitis?
The virus occurs mainly in rural areas, but sometimes on the outskirts of big cities too. In nature the virus is mainly found in pigs and large wading birds. Transmission of the virus from animals to animals, or from animals to humans, occurs through a type of mosquito (Culex), which is active throughout the evening and the night. The risk of infection is at its highest in tropical regions and is strongly linked with the rainy season and, therefore, on the number of mosquitoes. Individual travellers run a small risk of contracting Japanese encephalitis, which cannot be transmitted from person to person.
What are the symptoms?
In most cases the disease runs its course without serious symptoms. However, occasionally there will be serious symptoms, such as a passing high fever, headache, muscle ache and stomach complaints. Young children and the elderly run the greatest risk of a serious case of encephalitis, with symptoms such as a stiff neck, paralysis, loss of consciousness and seizures. A serious infection can be fatal, or lead to a recovery but with residual symptoms.
How can you avoid contracting Japanese encephalitis?
Given that travellers’ risk of infection is low, in most risk areas good anti-mosquito measures offer adequate protection. Check out our anti-mosquito measures. Depending on your travel plans and personal situation, you may also be advised to get vaccinated. Different criteria apply to children who stay in risk areas for extended periods, mainly because children run a greater risk than adults of the disease being serious.