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Japanese Encephalitis – rare does not mean never.

June 21st, 2017
Neural connections are damaged in Japanese Encephalitis

Another tragic case of Japanese Encephalitis (JE) has been reported – this time in a 60 year old Victorian man who merely visited Phuket, Thailand on a holiday and ran into the ‘ wrong mosquito’. The mosquito likes rural areas mostly, but not always. The mossie feeds at dust, mostly. The virus circulates in pigs and wading birds so it cannot ever be eradicated. Once the mossie drops its payload of the virus into the bloodstream, the JE virus attacks the brain, not only destroying brain cells but it also prevents their repair: a double whammy.  In many parts of Asia, the vaccine is given in childhood.

Of those who get sick, about one-third die, one-third recover and one-third are left with brain damage.

Japanese Encephalitis is a serious viral disease that is preventable by vaccination. It is not mentioned in the glossy tour brochures. This is a rare disease, but rare does not mean ‘never’. It is rare but dreadful, and because it is viral, it is very hard to treat. Medical science can only give supportive care and hope the body and the brain recovers by itself. Once you get sick – the odds are not great.

There is a vaccine: one dose in adults, which gives protection for life. The Japanese Encephalitis vaccine costs about $310 but that is cheaper than one day in hospital, or even taking your car for repairs. The vaccine has a low incidence of side effects.

Every traveller to Asia should, at the very least, have a discussion about JE to determine their best plan for avoiding this truly dreadful disease.

More info on JE below

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