Good news for travelers throughout Asia.  There is a new vaccine against Japanese encephalitis that significantly reduces typical side effects.

We all know that mosquitoes transmit some very serious viruses to humans. In addition to malaria and dengue fever, another mosquito-driven disease is Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV).  As reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) JEV is endemic in parts of China, India, the Republic of Korea, Japan, the Russian Federation, islands in the Torres Strait of Australia, Nepal, Thailand, Viet Nam, Cambodia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the Philippines, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka. Its breakouts are generally most prevalent during the summer and fall.

There is no treatment available for this disease which can lead to permanent damage to the nervous system or death. Though many vacationers or expats will not find themselves in high-risk areas during peak times, it is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that anyone travelling to an endemic area during a possible transmission season or those who are headed toward a potentially dangerous area should be vaccinated for JEV.

Historically, the vaccine was toxic to some people — especially those with a history of allergy to wasp/bee stings.  Many doctors were hesitant to give the traditional vaccine and if they did, they would advise recipients to stay in a country with decent medical facilities in case they were one of the rare cases to develop an allergic reaction within 10 days of receiving the vaccine.  Fortunately for those over 18 years of age, there is now a new vaccine that does not cause those side-effects and can be given as safely as any of our other vaccines.

In summary: If you are over 18 years old and travelling to one of the high risk areas mentioned above, ask your doctor for the new non-allergic Japanese encephalitis vaccine.

Author: Charlie Easmon, MBBS
Charlie Easmon, MBBS is a General Practitioner whose practice has a strong focus on Travel Medicine.  He is a Regional Physician Advisor for HTH Worldwide and the Medical Director for The Number One Health Group on Harley Street in London and ALC Global Health Insurance.  He is a member of the Royal College of Physicians, UK and has a Diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene from the University of Liverpool.   Dr. Easmon is an Honorary Lecturer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. 

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