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What is Japanese encephalitis and how do you catch it?
Spread through mosquito bites, Japanese encephalitis is a rare but serious viral brain infection. The virus starts with a mosquito biting an infected pig or bird, then going on to bite a human, transmitting the disease. The infection can’t be passed from person to person.
The virus is most common in South East Asia, the Pacific Islands and the Far East. The risk for most travellers is low, especially for short stay travellers. Those at higher risk are travellers to rural areas and those staying near to rice fields or pig farms for one month or longer.
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Signs and symptoms
Japanese encephalitis doesn’t always present symptoms, but if they do occur they’re usually mild and flu-like.
One in every 250 people develops more severe symptoms. This usually takes place five to 15 days after infection when it spreads to the brain. Severe Japanese encephalitis symptoms can include:
• High temperature (fever)
• Stiff neck
• Inability to speak
• Uncontrollable shaking of body parts
• Muscle weakness or paralysis
As these can be signs of many different diseases, you should seek immediate medical attention if you become unwell with flu-like symptoms and any of the symptoms listed whilst away or on your return.
The virus has no cure, however, treatment can be given to aid the body as it fights off the infection. Symptoms usually require hospital treatments such as fluids, oxygen and medication.
The most effective way to prevent Japanese encephalitis is by means of vaccination.
It’s also important to protect against being bitten by mosquitos.
To help prevent bites, you should:
• Use mosquito nets
• Wear long sleeves and trousers that are loose-fitting
• Spray rooms with insecticide
• Wear insect repellent
Japanese encephalitis Vaccination
The vaccination is given as an injection, is administered in two doses for protection. The second dose can either be given 28 days after the first, or, when time is short, seven days after the first (an ‘accelerated’ schedule).
The two doses should be completed at least seven days before your departure.
If you’re at higher risk of the disease, you should consider being vaccinated. It’s particularly important if:
• You’re travelling to a high-risk country during rainy season
• You’re visiting rural areas such as rice fields, marshlands or animal farms
• You’re likely to be doing activities that could increase your risk, such as cycling or camping
How long does the Japanese encephalitis vaccination last?
The vaccine protects you for at least 12 months, so you need a booster 12-24 months later to remain protected after one year.
We took our 2 year old son in to see Dr O’Neill for a meningitis B vaccination recently. Due to shortages of the vaccine, we had been on a waiting list with a well-known high street pharmacist for months without knowing when they would get stock in. We came across Glasgow Medical Rooms who had the vaccination and we managed to get our son booked in the next day. The clinic was very smart and easy to access in the city centre too. Dr O’Neill was great at dealing with our toddler. It was a relief to get the jabs sorted so quickly and would highly recommend the service to others.”Mrs CrawfordInverclyde
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I would like to thank Dr O’Neill very much for her time today: I get the impression that she is a very caring professional, knowledgeable and reassuring, and that she makes explaining conditions crystal clear, which is exactly what is needed for an anxious patient like myself. The staff that I met were all extremely welcoming, well-groomed and helpful too. Add to this the very relaxing and beautifully scented ambience and it was really a truly positive and pleasant visit. Thank you.Linnea Blair
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