Today, February 22nd is World Encephalitis Day (#WED), dedicated to raising awareness of encephalitis across the globe.
Even the healthiest people can be affected by encephalitis: read the incredible story of how one Canadian family was affected by Japanese encephalitis – and how an active, athletic 62-year-old father succumbed to the disease after contracting it in Thailand.
What do travelers need to know?
Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain caused by one of two things – an infection invading the brain (called infectious encephalitis) or through the immune system attacking the brain in error (called autoimmune or post-infectious encephalitis).
Viruses are the most common cause of infectious encephalitis. Noteworthy is that the Japanese encephalitis (JE) virus is the principal cause of vaccine-preventable encephalitis in Asia and the western Pacific. The disease, despite its name, is not specific to Japan.
What’s the risk for getting Japanese encephalitis?
While the risk for Japanese encephalitis during travel is considered low, it has the potential to be severe. The disease is carried by mosquitoes, exclusively in Asia and the western Pacific. Anyone at any age can get the disease.
The chances of being bitten by an infected mosquito depend on the specific destination, the season, how long you’re travelling and the types of activities you plan to do.
Mosquitoes carry the virus for Japanese encephalitis – Photo credit: Welcome to all and thank you for your visit! from Pixabay
How would you know if you have encephalitis?
Fortunately, most people are asymptomatic, or they only have mild symptoms. The bad news is that there is a small percentage of people that become infected and go on to develop a full-blown case of encephalitis. Symptoms for this can be severe and include a sudden onset headache, high fever, disorientation and even coma, tremors and convulsions.
There is no specific treatment – and the fatality rate can be as high as 30%.
What should you do before you travel to Asia and the western Pacific?
As a frequent traveler, I know it’s incumbent on me to make sure my vaccines are up to date. Since I’m not a doctor, I do rely on either a travel clinic or a pharmacist who specializes in travel to steer me in the right direction.
If you’re planning a trip to Asia, be sure to speak to a healthcare professional 4 to 6 weeks before travelling to discuss preventative measures you can take for your specific destination.
This post was sponsored by Valneva. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.