Japanese Encephalitis - Symptoms, Causes and Prevention

japanese encephalitis mosquito, 1

What is Japanese Encephalitis?

Japanese Encephalitis (JE) is an infectious disease of the brain, caused by the Japanese Encephalitis Virus (JEV). According to The Department of Health and Aged Care (Australia), at the time of writing, 42 human cases of Japanese Encephalitis had been found. Although Japanese Encephalitis virus mosquito brings is not a contagious disease, it can be fatal. According to the estimates of WHO, the annual global cases of Japanese Encephalitis is around 68,000.

How is Japanese Encephalitis transmitted?

In humans, mosquito bites are the only found cause of the transmission of a Japanese encephalitis (JE) virus. The Japanese encephalitis virus is found in pigs and birds. When mosquitoes bite them, they get infected and become important vectors of the disease. Infected Culex mosquitoes (Culex tritaeniorhynchus in particular) are known vectors of the Japanese encephalitis mosquito virus. 

You might be wondering whether Culex mosquitoes can transmit the disease from human to human? The answer is no. For the Japanese encephalitis virus, humans are dead end hosts. This means that us humans do not have enough viral load in our bloodstreams that could infect a mosquito who’s feeding on us. As a result, human to human transmission is impossible.

japanese encephalitis mosquito, 2

The Culex Mosquito Plays a Crucial Role

What mosquito carries Japanese Encephalitis? As mentioned earlier, Culex species, especially Culex tritaeniorhynchus is responsible for transmitting the Japanese encephalitis virus. Culex mosquitoes are common house mosquitoes. As such, they have easy access to our homes. The access is amplified when your surroundings are not clean. Like many other mosquitoes, female Culex mosquitoes lay eggs in stagnant water. These water sources may include barrels, horse troughs, ornamental ponds, unmaintained swimming pools, puddles, creeks, ditches and even planters. Both urban and rural households near to stagnant water sources are at risk of developing Japanese encephalitis.

Japanese Encephalitis Symptoms

What happens if you get Japanese Encephalitis? Most cases of Japanese Encephalitis come with no to mild symptoms. However, in some cases, the clinical outcomes may be severe and even lead to death. Australia alone has reported 7 deaths from Japanese Encephalitis (Two in New South Wales, two in South Australia, one in Victoria, one in Queensland and one in the Northern Territory), hence the risks should not be ruled out. The incubation period for the Japanese encephalitis virus is 5 to 15 days. 

Symptoms of Japanese encephalitis may include:

  • Fever
  • Seizures or fits 
  • A stiff neck
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty in speaking 
  • Uncontrollable shaking of body parts 
  • Muscle weakness or paralysis

These symptoms are seen in clinically advanced cases of Japanese Encephalitis. 1 out 3 people who develop these severe symptoms die from the infection. Additionally, people whose condition improves may also experience chronic neurologic, cognitive, or psychiatric symptoms.

Japanese Encephalitis Vaccine

Although Japanese Encephalitis is a lethal disease, vaccination can prevent the severe clinical manifestations of the disease. In Australia, two vaccines against the JE virus have been approved:

  • Imojev
  • JEspect (also known as Ixiaro)

These vaccines are generally administered to people and professionals who are at higher risk of catching the virus (farm workers, health workers, laboratory personnels, entomologists etc.).  If you think you’re in need of a JE vaccine, contact your nearest local public health authority for further medical advice and to find out whether you’re eligible for the vaccine. 

Japanese Encephalitis Prevention

Japanese Encephalitis is caused by mosquito bites. Therefore, preventing mosquito breeding around your home and taking protective measures against mosquito bites will help you prevent Japanese Encephalitis in general. Here are a couple of steps you can take: 

  1. Wear clothes that cover hands and arms.
  2. Use good quality and safe insect repellents on exposed areas of the skin.
  3. Declutter your house every now and then to give mosquitoes zero areas for hiding.
  4. Clean your surroundings to get rid of any stagnant water sources.
  5. Raise awareness among neighbors and friends to encourage them to do the same.

You can also install Envirobug’s eco-friendly and non-toxic mosquito traps for good measure. Our electronic mosquito traps do not use any toxic chemicals or aerosols to get rid of mosquitoes. Instead, our electronic devices lure mosquitoes inside the device, and remove them from your home in a mess-free manner. Find out more about our mosquito traps here.

Mosquitoes are easily the most dangerous animal on earth, and they have earned this reputation due to their ability to spread severe diseases. However, with the right steps, you can definitely prevent mosquito-borne diseases and ensure the safety of your family.

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