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Japanese Encephalitis Vaccine: Where to Get It and Why You Need It

What Is Japanese Encephalitis?

Japanese encephalitis is a serious viral infection that is most prevalent in rural parts of Asia. Although the risk of infection is low for most travelers, it is a dangerous illness that can lead to encephalitis (brain infection) – one in four people who develop encephalitis will die and many others will have a permanent neurological disability. Japanese encephalitis is the most common cause of vaccine-preventable encephalitis in Asia.

How Does Japanese Encephalitis Spread?

The virus can only be transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito, therefore it is vital that, in addition to getting a Japanese Encephalitis vaccine, travelers take precautions to protect themselves from mosquito-borne illnesses. It cannot be spread from person-to-person.

Symptoms of Japanese Encephalitis

Symptom severity will vary. Some people infected with the virus will not experience any symptoms while others may have only mild symptoms, like fever and headache. In severe cases, encephalitis may develop, leading to symptoms that include:

  • High fever
  • Neck stiffness
  • Seizures
  • Coma and/or death

Where to Get the Japanese Encephalitis Vaccine

The vaccine is given in two doses, spaced 28 days apart. The second dose of the Japanese Encephalitis vaccine should be given at least one week before travel. Vaccination is approved for people two months of age and older. Most pregnant women should NOT get the vaccine.

Japanese Encephalitis vaccine is recommended primarily for those taking longer trips in the rainy season and/or those planning to spend time in rural areas of the following countries:

This is not a comprehensive list. If your destination country is not listed, talk to the travel medicine specialists at the UH Roe Green Center for Travel Medicine & Global Health for more information about recommended vaccines.