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Japanese encephalitis (JE) is a virus transmitted through the bite of infected mosquitoes. It’s most commonly found in rice fields and other rural areas of Asia.
JE is closely related to the St. Louis and West Nile viruses. All three viruses cause acute inflammation of the brain and spinal column. Symptoms begin with fever and headache. However, they can turn into:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a quarter of people who develop JE will die. Half will develop permanent brain damage.
Currently vaccination is only widely available for adults in the United States. The vaccine approved for children is no longer manufactured. If a child needs a vaccine, the options include:
Not everyone who travels to Asia needs to be vaccinated for JE. Vaccination is recommended only for those who are:
The vaccine is given in two doses. The doses should be given at least 28 days apart. The second dose should be received at least one week before potential JE exposure. This means you need the first vaccine dose at least 35 days before the start of travel.
Certain people should not get the JE vaccination. This includes people who:
Talk to your doctor if you are planning only a short stay in Asia. If you are primarily visiting urban areas, you may not need the vaccine.
Severe reactions to this vaccine are rare. However, many people have mild side effects including:
Written by: Amy Boulanger
Medically reviewed on: Jan 12, 2015: George Krucik, MD, MBA
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