Health authorities in Australia are on high alert after Japanese encephalitis was detected in the country’s eastern and southern states.

There have been several confirmed cases of Japanese Encephalitis Virus (JEV) along the eastern seaboard and the death and hospitalisation of several South Australians.

The Encephalitis Society is now encouraging Australians to take precautions against Japanese encephalitis and familiarise themselves with the condition.

Dr Ava Easton, Chief Executive of the Encephalitis Society, said: “As Australia faces ongoing extreme weather conditions, we are urging all Australians to equip themselves with knowledge about this very real disease and to not dismiss it as a low-risk probability or something too rare to talk about.

“We’ve already seen the first cases of Japanese Encephalitis in Australia in several years and it’s possible some of the viruses responsible for encephalitis will be proliferating during the floods with a very real risk of further increases in case numbers and fatalities.

“We live in a one health world now where our interactions with the climate and the animals we co-exist with impact our human health. 

“We urge people to take precautions. Not to just use mosquito-repellent, but to also take up available vaccination against some of these viruses such as JEV if they work or live in areas of high exposure, and most importantly to take heed of symptoms.”

If you need support or information about Japanese encephalitis, please contact our support team.

Symptoms of Japanese encephalitis

Most people who are infected have only mild or no symptoms. The time from infection to developing symptoms is between 5-15 days.  In those who are going on to experience encephalitis as a result symptoms may include fever, chills, headache, muscle pain and spasm, movement disorders, changes in behaviour, seizures and a reduction in the level of consciousness.

Diagnosis of Japanese encephalitis

The symptoms of Japanese encephalitis are not specific for this illness. People living/travelling in the endemic areas should be suspected and tested for JEV if they present with symptoms of encephalitis.  Diagnosis can be confirmed, usually, by finding specific antibodies in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) following a lumbar puncture (LP or spinal tap) or in the blood.

Treatment of Japanese encephalitis

There is no specific antiviral treatment for Japanese encephalitis. The treatment is mostly symptomatic and supportive. In the severe cases, the treatment aims to manage seizures and raised intracranial pressure (due to brain inflammation) and support breathing.

Consequences of Japanese encephalitis

JE is a very serious illness. Estimates of death are very variable ranging from 5-50% and nearly half may be left with neurological, psychosocial, cognitive (intellectual) and/or physical disabilities.

People can take precautions such as wearing mosquito repellent, wearing long sleeves and trousers to avoid being bitten and ensuring their homes and communities are free from stagnant water where mosquitoes gather and lay their eggs.

Safe and effective vaccines are available to prevent JE. The WHO recommends that JE vaccination be integrated into national immunization schedules in all areas where JE disease is recognized as a public health issue.

Those who might be at increased risk of exposure should seek advice about vaccination.

In addition, all travellers to areas where JE is endemic should seek travel health advice including the need for vaccination.

More information on prevention and guidelines for travellers is provided on our website

Global Impact Report

The Encephalitis Society highlighted issues around Japanese encephalitis in its recently published Global Impact Report.

Encephalitis: an in-depth review and gap analysis of key variables affecting global disease burden is a 160-page document which identifies a range of difficulties and solutions to the global impact of encephalitis.

The report (pages 44 to 49) finds that there is a need to improve access to health facilities, vaccine availability, financial resources and education to enable access to Japanese encephalitis vaccines in at-risk countries.

Surveillance systems (pages 93 to 103) also need to be implemented in all areas where Japanese encephalitis is a public health priority. Moreover, the report finds that there needs to be complete case reporting, correct classification of cases, presence of immunisation program monitoring data, and adequate monitoring of vaccination coverage following vaccine introduction.

These topics and more from the Global Impact Report will be the subject of talks involving global partners and stakeholders, including the World Health Organization, in the future.

Useful Links 

Australian Government: Department of Health

State health departments

New South Wales


South Australia



Western Australia

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