Japanese encephalitis (JE) is a virus that causes inflammation of the brain (encephalitis). JE spreads solely through mosquitoes in Asia and the western Pacific particularly in rural or agricultural areas, often associated with rice farming.
Affair With Mosquitoes
Mosquitoes pick up the virus from feeding of infected vertebrate hosts (pigs and wading birds). Mosquitoes then carry the virus to its next meal victim. JE can not spread from person-to-person. It can only spread by mosquitoes, the rate of transmission usually increases during the rainy season.
What Happens When You Get Infected?
Once bitten, it usually takes 5 to 15 days to develop symptoms if at all. Those with severe infections will develop fever, chills, headache, fatigue, nausea and vomiting. Eventually this can progress to encephalitis and swelling (inflammation of the brain). In children the encephalitis is often accompanied by seizures. In some cases, coma and paralysis may occur. Furthermore 20-30% of patients who develop encephalitis will die.
No Treatment For JE
There is not specific treatment for JE. This means little can be done other than to relieve the symptoms such as give pain relief medication to reduce the fever and intense care management to reduce pressure in the brain.
The JE Vaccine
With a safe and effective JE vaccine around, our government has taken initiative to provide it to children in Sarawak at 9 and 21 months.
JE is also strongly recommended for travellers who plan to spend 1 month or more in endemic (places that JE is regularly found) areas. This includes long-term travellers, recurrent travellers and expatriates who will be based in urban areas but are likely to visit endemic rural and agricultural ares.