Photo: Street food Phetchaburi Soi 10, Bangkok.

Southeast Asia forum

japanese encephalitis? Yes or No!

Posted by Dan87 on 28/2/2007 at 06:07

How common is it for backpackers to have this? (The nurse at my doctors was terrible and new less than me, and just read it from a sheet of paper.)

I will be travelling throughout South East Asia (thialand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos) and have already read a bit about Jap B. I get the impression you have to be in a remote area that has pig farms and stuff. I will be doing hill tribe trecks in both Thailand (Chaing Mai) and Veitnam (Sapa) I am also considering doing trecking in some remote less travelled parts of Northen Loas these could take a little longer due to travel in remote areas being slower (though i will avoid this if adviced). I will only be trecking for a few days (prob no more than 5) at a time.
Jap B sounds pretty deadly in that it kills 1 in 5 and leaves many more with permant damage to the brain. Though the impression I get is that backpackers never get the vaccination unless they are doing charity work in remote areas where they will be staying for a couple of weeks in one place.

Can some 1 just help put my mind at rest that i am making the right decision in not having this vaccination.

#1 Dan87 has been a member since 28/2/2007. Posts: 4

Posted by somtam2000 on 28/2/2007 at 08:43 admin

I'm not sure about that one -- perhaps see a travel doctor to get an expect opinion. I had it the first time I travelled, but haven't had a booster since. That said I tend not to spend much time in pig farms. I think you'd need to weigh up the amount of time you'll be spending in "higher risk" areas vs the cost/inconvenience of taking the shot. As you say, it's generally a fair way down the checklist of most travellers...

#2 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,709
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Posted by exacto on 2/3/2007 at 08:49

i remember when i was living in bangkok in the late 1990's, my work was offering this vaccination for free. i still decided not to get the shot, however, because at that time the side-effects and risks associated with the vaccination seemed greater than the risk of actually getting the disease.

JE is a mossie-borne disease, just like dengue fever and malaria, and what, if any meds/shots you take to protect yourself is a very personal decision. even if you get the shot, you'll want to be sure to cover up well to protect yourself from getting bit by mossies, particularly at dawn and dusk, and to use a mossie spray.

you'll also do well to check out info on JE on the internet. my go to site is the Center for Disease Control and prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. you can see what they have to say about JE at this link.
The CDC info says that "JE transmission principally occurs in rural agricultural locations where flooding irrigation is practiced. In many areas of Asia, these ecologic conditions may occur near or occasionally within urban centers. Transmission is seasonal and occurs in the summer and autumn in the temperate regions of China, Japan, Korea, and eastern Russia. Elsewhere, seasonal patterns of disease may be extended or vary with the rainy season and irrigation practices. Risk of JE varies by season and geographic area."

They add that "Vaccination should be considered by persons who plan to live in areas where JE is endemic or epidemic and by travelers whose activities include trips into rural farming areas. Short-term travelers, especially those whose visits are restricted to major urban areas, are at lower risk for infection and generally should not be advised to receive the vaccine. Evaluation of an individual traveler's risk should take into account itinerary and activities and the current level of JE activity in the travel area."

This link is really worth reading, as it also has a country-by-country listing of where JE is endemic, and when you can catch it. When you travel seems to be important too, as JE is presumed to be a risk only from May to October in mainland southeast Asia. The link also has info on the vaccine, as well as the risks of the vaccine. I hope that helps. Cheers.

#3 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,685
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