There have been several confirmed cases of Japanese Encephalitis Virus (JEV) along the eastern seaboard and the death and hospitalisation of several South Australians.
Encephalitis International is now encouraging Australians to take precautions against Japanese encephalitis and familiarise themselves with the condition.
Dr Ava Easton, Chief Executive of Encephalitis International, 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.