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Japanese Encephalitis

Definition

Japanese encephalitis is a mosquito-borne infection that leads to swelling of the brain. It can affect the central nervous system and cause severe complications, even death.

Causes    TOP

Japanese encephalitis is caused by a bite from a mosquito infected with the virus.

Risk Factors    TOP

Factors that may increase your chances of Japanese encephalitis:

  • Living or traveling in certain rural parts of Asia—Outbreaks have occurred in China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Thailand. These countries have controlled the disease through vaccinations. Other countries that still have periodic epidemics include Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, India, Nepal, and Malaysia.
  • Employment as a lab worker, which may result in exposure to the virus.

Symptoms    TOP

Symptoms of Japanese encephalitis usually appear 5-15 days after the bite from an infected mosquito.

Japanese encephalitis may cause:

  • Agitation
  • Brain damage
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Convulsions (especially in infants)
  • Fever
  • Neck stiffness
  • Headache
  • Tremors
  • Paralysis
  • Coma

Diagnosis    TOP

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Tests may include the following:

  • Blood tests to look for antibodies
  • Lumbar puncture to evaluate the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord

Imaging tests to assess the brain include:

Treatment    TOP

Since there is no specific treatment for Japanese encephalitis. Care is focused on treating specific symptoms and complications.

Prevention    TOP

There is a Japanese encephalitis vaccine. It is recommended for people who live or travel in certain parts of Asia and for lab workers who are at risk of exposure to the virus.

Take the following measures to protect yourself from mosquito bites:

  • Remain in well-screened areas.
  • Wear clothes that cover most of your body.
  • Use insect repellents that contain up to 30% NN-diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET) on skin and clothing.
  • Use proper mosquito netting at night. Look for netting treated with insecticide.

RESOURCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
https://www.cdc.gov
Infectious Diseases Society of America
http://www.idsociety.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

References:

Japanese encephalitis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/japaneseencephalitis. Accessed August 5, 2015. Accessed December 7, 2017.
Japanese encephalitis VIS. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/je-ixiaro.html. Updated January 24, 2014. Accessed December 7, 2017.
Mosquito avoidance. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115142/Mosquito-avoidance. Updated November 21, 2016. Accessed December 7, 2017.
Vaccine is key to preventing outbreaks of Japanese encephalitis. UNICEF website. Available at: https://www.unicef.org/immunization/india_28555.html. Accessed December 7, 2017.
Last reviewed December 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 12/20/2014

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