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What is Japanese encephalitis and what causes it?

Japanese encephalitis is a viral infection of the central nervous system, which can very easily cause the serious complications and have fatal outcome. The disease is very common in rural and agricultural areas of Asia, particularly those in which rice is cultivated. Since it is seasonal, the travelers who plan to visit these areas are advised to get all the necessary information about it in advance, and take precautions in order to protect themselves.

As for the cause of this disease, a virus called arbovirus has been identified as the main culprit, and the infected mosquitoes spread it to humans when they bite them. Since the mosquitoes suck human blood, the virus is transferred directly to the bloodstream, from where it can spread to glands and multiply. The problems occur when it gets to the brain, since in this part of the body it tends to settle.

The most common symptoms of Japanese encephalitis

It usually takes a week for the first symptoms of this disease to appear, and they resemble the symptoms of flu. The most typical ones for the early stage of the disease are fever, nausea, severe headache, chills and vomiting, but during the early stage, an infected person may feel agitation and confusion as well. However, as the disease progresses, the infection spreads to the brain and spinal cord, and the patient begins to feel stiffness and pain in the neck. Very serious symptoms then follow, and they include tremors, problems with coordination and balance, seizures, a stiff look on the face, while certain groups of muscles start to paralyze.

Unfortunately, for a number of patients this disease ends in either coma or death, and only a small number of them manage to survive. However, even those who survive are usually left with permanent consequences because of the brain damage.


A vaccine is the best way to prevent this serious disease, and it is given to children who live in the risk areas, as well as to those who plan to travel there. It is also suggested to use mosquito repellents and other ways that help in avoiding the bites of the mosquitoes. Having in mind the seriousness of the disease, the mortality rate and the consequences of which some are permanent, as well as the fact that there is no cure for this disease while only the symptoms can be treated, it is much better not to put yourself at risk.

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