Japanese Encephalitis Immunization Information

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At Rite Aid, your total wellness is paramount. And part of reaching total wellness is shielding yourself from diseases like Japanese encephalitis (JE). The JE virus is the chief cause of preventable (via vaccine) encephalitis in the western Pacific and Asia. Depending on destination, duration of travel, season, and activities, the risk for JE varies, but is typically very low for those traveling to Asia.

JE is perpetuated via a cycle that includes mosquitoes and hosts (typically those with vertebrae), predominately wading birds and pigs. People can become infected when they are bitten by a mosquito infected with JE. The majority of infections in people are asymptomatic, or cause only mild symptoms. But a small fraction of people who have contracted JE develop inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), with possible symptoms ranging from: high fever, sudden headache onset, tremors and convulsions, disorientation, and sometimes coma. About 25% of JE cases lead to death.

JE has no specific treatment. Patient care centers on support and management of complications. Preventing mosquito bites and getting vaccinated are the best protective measures one can take to avoid Japanese encephalitis.

How does Japanese Encephalitis spread?

  • Japanese encephalitis virus is transmitted to humans via the bite of infected mosquitoes (Culex species), particularly Culex tritaeniorhynchus (JE [a flavivirus] is closely related to West Nile and St. Louis encephalitis viruses).
  • Japanese encephalitis is perpetuated via a cycle that includes mosquitoes and hosts (typically those with vertebrae), predominately wading birds and pigs. People are incidental or “dead-end” hosts, since they typically don’t develop high enough concentrations of Japanese encephalitis virus in their blood to infect feeding mosquitoes.
  • Japanese encephalitis virus transmission typically happens in rural, agricultural areas, especially those known for rice production or production of other crops that use flooding for irrigation. Such conditions can occur near urban centers in some areas of Asia.
  • Japanese encephalitis virus transmission is seasonal in temperate areas of Asia. Disease in humans typically peaks in summer and fall seasons. In the tropics and subtropics, transmission can occur all year, often peaking in the rainy season.

What are the symptoms of Japanese Encephalitis?

Ninety nine percent of people infected with Japanese encephalitis will NOT develop clinical illness. In the less than 1% of people who do develop symptoms, the incubation period (time from infection until illness) is usually 5-15 days. Headache, fever, and vomiting are often the initial symptoms. Symptoms that may develop over the next few days include: weakness, neurological symptoms, mental status changes and movement disorders. Among children, seizures are common.

What is the Japanese Encephalitis vaccination?

  • Japanese encephalitis vaccine is recommended for those who plan to travel and spend one month or more in locales where the virus is prevalent during the JE virus transmission season, including: recurrent travelers, long-term travelers, or expatriates who will spend most of their time in urban areas, but are expected to visit endemic agricultural or rural agricultural areas during the high-risk season for JE virus transmission.
  • Vaccination for Japanese encephalitis should also be considered for:
    • Short-term (less than 4 weeks) travelers to prevalent regions during transmission season, if they plan to travel beyond an urban area and their activities will heighten the danger of JE virus exposure.
      Examples of such high-risk activities include:
      1. spending substantial time outdoors in agricultural or rural areas, especially in the evening or at night;
      2. participating in predominately outdoor activities like: hiking, camping, biking, hunting, fishing, or farming;
      3. staying in accommodations lacking screens, bed nets, or air conditioning.
    • Those traveling to areas with an active JE outbreak
    • Those traveling and uncertain of specific destinations, activities, or duration of stay in endemic areas
  • The vaccine is not recommended for those traveling short term to urban areas, or times outside a well-defined Japanese encephalitis virus transmission season.