Japanese Encephalitis is a disease which causes inflammation of the brain and can even prove fatal. Japanese encephalitis is common in Asia, and therefore if you are from parts of Asia or are planning to travel to places in Asia, you need to be vaccinated. It does not pass from person to person; rather it spreads like dengue or malaria- via mosquitoes. This means that you are susceptible to the disease if you have been bitten by an infected mosquito, unless you have been vaccinated against it. Again, only those who live in Asia or are travelling to parts of it need the Japanese Encephalitis vaccine or the JE vaccine.
Why is the JE vaccine important?
Japanese Encephalitis is serious disease. Encephalitis means inflammation of the brain, and JE refers to the virus that originated in Japan, which upon entering your system causes brain inflammation. This inflammation can cause serious complications such as seizures, paralysis, nausea, and sometimes even death. Therefore, the vaccine is important to protect you and your family from the disease.
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Japanese Encephalitis Vaccine: An Overview
Japanese Encephalitis is largely considered an asymptotic disease. This means that most people suffering from JE will see mild to no symptoms apart from occasional inflammation of the brain. However, about 1 in 250 people will develop more serious symptoms such as:
- High fever
- Throwing up
- Feeling dizzy or confused
- Difficulty moving or paralysis
About 1 in 3 people suffering from JE could die. Sometimes, even if treatment can successfully cure the body, it can leave behind permanent disability.
Do I need the JE vaccine?
- Plan to spend about 1 month or more in areas of Asia where JE is common
- Are going to a rural area with few facilities and a chance of a lot of mosquitoes around
- Are travelling to place with an ongoing JE outbreak
- If you are travelling on a business/study trip where JE is a risk, and you don’t know how long you will need to stay.
- Are a laboratory worker with risk of exposure to the JE virus.
These conditions make you viable to receive a JE vaccine.
Some people are exempt from getting the vaccine, since it may be unsuitable for their system, such as:
- Infants and children below the age of 3 should not be administered the JE vaccine.
- If you have a serious or potentially life threatening allergy to the vaccine or any ingredient in it.
- Pregnant women are usually advised to not take the JE vaccine. If you are considering taking one, consult your doctor to make sure it is safe for both you and your baby.
Does the JE vaccine have side effects?
Just like any other vaccine, there is a chance of side effects with the JE vaccine too. However, the severity of these side effects depends on how your body is going to react to the vaccine. Norm ally, if there are any side effects, they are mild and go away on their own.
Some mild side effects of the JE vaccine include:
- Pain, tenderness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given (in about 25% of the cases).
- Fever (seen mostly in children).
- Headache, muscle ache (seen mostly in adults).
Sometimes you can have a more severe reaction to the vaccine, but studies have shown that that is very rare. If you’re still concerned about a severe reaction, there are some red flags you should look out for. Look for anything that concerns you such as signs of a severe allergic reaction, very high fever, or behavior changes. Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, and weakness. These would usually start a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination.
There are some other things that happen after a vaccination shot, and should not be cause for alarm, such as:
- There is a chance of a brief fainting spell occurring after a medical procedure, which includes vaccination. Sitting or lying down for about 15 minutes can help prevent fainting, and injuries caused by a fall. Tell your doctor if you feel dizzy, have vision changes or hear ringing in the ears.
- Lasting shoulder pain and reduced range of motion in the arm where the shot was given can happen, very rarely, after a vaccination. Again, this is only surface pain and should go away on its own in time, and should be no cause of immediate alarm.
What is the procedure of vaccination?
The vaccine is given as a 2-dose series, with the doses spaced 28 days apart. The second dose should be given at least a week before travel. Children get a smaller dose than adults or teenagers. A booster dose might be recommended for anyone 17 or older who was vaccinated more than a year ago and is still at risk of exposure.
It is pertinent to mention here that the best way to protect yourself from JE is to avoid mosquito bites. There are many ways in which you can do this; consult your doctor for further information on how to effectively avoid a mosquito bite.
How much will the vaccination cost?
For patients not covered by health insurance, the cost of a Japanese Encephalitis vaccination typically includes: a consultation fee, shot administration fees, and the cost of the three required doses of vaccine. The total cost typically ranges from under $450 to more than $1,100. For patients covered by health insurance, typical expenses include a copay of $10 to $40 for the doctor visit and copay for each dose of the vaccine.
Japanese Encephalitis is a disease that occurs in Asia. Therefore, if you are not a native of Asia, you do not need the vaccine. If you plan to travel to parts of Asia, then it is recommended that you get yourself vaccinated’ especially if you are visiting rural areas. The best way to prevent infection with JE is to avoid mosquito bites. You must therefore be careful and consult your doctor before taking any steps in this direction.