About Japanese Encephalitis
Japanese encephalitis is a viral infection that is found throughout South and South-East Asia, where transmission can be seasonal (usually May-October coinciding with the rains) or all year long.
The virus is spread by the Culex mosquito (vector) and the hosts for the virus are water fowl and pigs. Humans are the end host. Consequently, the disease is mainly found in rural areas, around rice paddies, farmlands (especially pig farms). However, it is important to note that outbreaks can and do occur in urban locations.
There is no treatment for the disease and it can cause fatality or permanent disability.
Therefore, all travellers at risk of this of exposure to this illness should carry out Mosquito bite prevention, which includes insect repellent, mosquito nets, insecticide infused clothing (if necessary) and strongly consider Vaccination.
Ixiaro is the licensed vaccine against Japanese Encephalitis and it is safe to administer from 2 months of age.
Previously there was one schedule, the STANDARD Schedule, which required two doses of the vaccine given 1 month apart (day 0 and 2nd dose day 28). Full protection against the disease is only achieved 7 days after the second dose. Therefore, if you were travelling to an “at risk” destination in less than 1 month and thus, unable to get two doses, you would not be covered against the illness.
There is now an ACCELERATED schedule, which can be used for travellers who do not have enough time to complete the standard course. This is licensed for use in adults aged 18-65 years and consists of two doses given 1 week apart (day 0 and 2nd dose day 7). This schedule provides the equivalent protection 7 days after the second dose as the standard schedule.
Additionally, the Department of Health guidance advises that clinicians can use this ACCELERATED schedule “off license” in children aged 12-17 years also, if there is genuinely insufficient time before travel.
Booster doses should be given at 2 years if there will be further exposure to the illness. After this, in those between 18-65 years of age, a second booster should be given at 10 years.