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Japanese Encephalitis – rare does not mean never.

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

A tragic case of Japanese Encephalitis (JE) was reported 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 dusk, 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.

The disease is all over Asia – This links to the map where the disease occurs.

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

Japanese Encephalitis is preventable by vaccination. In ‘at-risk’  areas the vaccine is often given to children, but visitors have no such protection.  The disease is rare but catastrophically bad, and because it is caused by a virus, 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.

JE is ( of course) not mentioned in the glossy tour brochures. This is a ‘rare’ disease, but ‘rare’ does not mean ‘never’.

There are several different vaccines: The most popular is a live vaccine: one dose administered to adults, gives protection for life. This Japanese Encephalitis vaccine costs about $310 but that’s 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 consider vaccination or 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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