Encephalitis Society Japanese Encephalitis (JE) Vaccination Statement

First published 1st April, 2022

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*Information may change at a fast pace so in addition to reading this statement we encourage you to visit the links at the end of this document for the latest developments.

Japanese encephalitis (JE) is a type of infectious encephalitis caused by Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV). The virus is found in pigs and birds and is transmitted by Culex mosquitoes which bite mainly during the night or just after sunset and which breed in water pools and flooded rice fields. JEV is the main cause of viral encephalitis in many countries of Asia and the pacific islands with an estimated 68 000 cases every year.

Endemic virus cases of JE in Australia have generally been sporadic.  At the beginning of March 2022, health authorities in Australia were alerted by the presence of JE cases in the nation’s eastern seaboard followed by the death and hospitalisation of several South Australians from this condition.

Australian Government Department of Health are monitoring the unfolding situation in Australia concerning the Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV). At 28Th March 2022, there were 33 human cases of JEV in Australia reported (22 confirmed, 11 probable) and sadly, three deaths.

www.health.gov.au/health-alerts/japanese-encephalitis-virus-jev/about

What does this mean for people who live in the affected areas?

The Encephalitis Society experienced a considerable increase in the request for information resources on JE. During the last month, 15% of our website visitors were from Australia compared with 3% for the same period last year and our Japanese encephalitis page views have increased by 800%. To meet this need for information, we put together the following consensus statement based upon the Australian Government Department of Health recommendations.

Vaccine recommendations

In Australia, JE has been declared a Communicable Disease Incident of National Significance.

Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA) jurisdictional representative group has prioritised the following highest exposure groups for priority vaccination (mainland Australia, Torres Strait Islands and Tiwi Islands):

  • people who work at, reside at, or have a planned non-deferable visit to a:
  1. piggery, including but not limited to farm workers and their families (including children aged 2 months and older) living at the piggery, transport workers, veterinarians and others involved in the care of pigs
  2. pork abattoir or pork rendering plant
  • personnel who work directly with mosquitoes through their surveillance (field or laboratory based) or control and management, and indirectly through management of vertebrate mosquito-borne disease surveillance systems (e.g. sentinel animals) such as:
  1. environmental health officers and workers (urban and remote)
  2. entomologists
  3. all diagnostic and research laboratory workers who may be exposed to the virus, such as persons working with JEV cultures or mosquitoes with the potential to transmit JEV; as per the Australian Immunisation Handbook.

According to the Australian Immunisation Handbook, there are two types of vaccine approved in Australia: Imogev and JEspect.  For more information on types, doses and recommendation, contraindications, precautious and adverse effects, please read the complete guidance at

https://immunisationhandbook.health.gov.au/vaccine-preventable-diseases/japanese-encephalitis  

If you want to know if you should have a vaccine, contact your local health public authority

www.health.gov.au/health-topics/immunisation/immunisation-contacts#state-and-territory-immunisation-health-services

The priority groups will be periodically reviewed as surveillance data emerges.

Vaccine confidence

We are concerned that there are some people around the world who are reluctant to get vaccinated. We accept that people can be concerned about their health. However, we are also conscious that some concerns about vaccine safety are fuelled by fake news and information which is not evidence-based.

We also recognise that no medical intervention is completely risk-free but in the case of vaccinations it is important to understand that science and history have demonstrated that the significant benefits outweigh the very small, occasional risk.

Having the population at risk as categorised above immunised against JEV is critical to reduce deaths, illness and disability caused by the virus. 

If you are concerned due to your personal circumstances (e.g., previous allergy, pregnant, breastfeeding, weakened immune system), your health care provider should give you more information.

If you have had encephalitis or are on treatments related to your encephalitis (for example immunosuppressive treatments) and are concerned, you should speak with the medical team involved in your care.

Other prevention precautions

In addition to taking vaccination (which can take up to 28 days to achieve immunity), people can also take immediate precautions measures such as wearing mosquito repellent, wearing long sleeves and trousers to avoid being bitten, using mosquitoes’ screens and nets, and ensuring their homes and communities are free from stagnant water where mosquitoes gather and lay their eggs.

How the Encephalitis Society help?

The Encephalitis Society is the only resources of its kind in the world that provides information and support for people affected by encephalitis, their families and professionals involved in their care, raises awareness of encephalitis, and conducts and supports research into the condition.

We have a dedicated section on our website where you can find up-to-date information on the condition and its after-effects.

www.encephalitis.info/Blog/japanese-encephalitis-australia

We are here for you. If you are worried and want to chat to someone, call our support line on        +44 (0) 1653 699599, email [email protected] or use our Chat Online button on the website www.encephalitis.info

Bibliography and other links

www.health.gov.au/health-topics/japanese-encephalitis 

https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/cdna-advice-regarding-vaccination-against-japanese-encephalitis-virus

www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/japanese-encephalitis

https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/je-ixiaro.html 

https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/japanese-encephalitis