Japanese encephalitis (JE)
Japanese encephalitis (JE), the leading cause of viral encephalitis in Asia, causes an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 cases and 10,000 to 15,000 deaths each year, mostly among children under 15 years of age. There is no specific treatment for JE. Vaccination is the single most important measure for controlling the disease.
JE resources on the Vaccine Resource Library were mainly gathered during PATH’s JE project, which conducted technical activities from 2003 to 2009 in collaboration with local, regional, and global health stakeholders. For additional resources, visit the JE page on the World Health Organization website.
On the PATH website
- JE is the leading cause of viral encephalitis in Asia and is spread by infected mosquitoes. The risk of infection is greatest in parts of southern and eastern Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and southeast Russia. Because of their proximity to mosquito-breeding environments such as rice paddies and standing water, populations in rural areas face the greatest risk of infection.
- An estimated 30,000 to 50,000 cases and 10,000 to 15,000 deaths occur each year, mostly among children under 15 years old. In endemic areas, the annual incidence of clinical disease ranges from 10 to 100 per 100,000 population.
- On average, 1 in 300 infections results in symptomatic illness, which is characterized by a flu-like illness with sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, tiredness, nausea, and vomiting. The illness can progress to encephalitis (infection of the brain) and is fatal in 30 percent of cases. About 30 percent of survivors will have serious cognitive and language impairment.
- Vaccination is the single most important measure to control JE, as vector control has proven ineffective. There is no clinical treatment for JE. Care of patients focuses on treatment of symptoms and complications.
- The JE vaccine that has been most widely available historically is an inactivated, mouse brain-derived vaccine. However, there are several constraints to this vaccine: it is labor intensive to produce, there is not enough available for everyone who needs it, and production of this vaccine has stopped in many places.
- Recent work has focused on developing and distributing newer JE vaccines that are easier and less expensive to produce, are more efficacious, have fewer side effects, and are easier to integrate into routine immunization schedules. These include the SA 14-14-2 JE vaccine—a live, attenuated vaccine that has been used for more than 20 years in China and has recently become available internationally. Several other JE vaccines are in development, and studies of their safety and efficacy among children are currently ongoing. A new JE vaccine by Intercell is licensed for use in the US, Europe, and Australia.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that JE vaccination be extended to all endemic areas where the disease is considered a public health concern.
For more information
JE resources on the Vaccine Resource Library were mainly gathered during PATH’s JE project, which conducted technical activities from 2003 to 2009 in collaboration with local, regional, and global health stakeholders. For additional resources, visit the JE page on the WHO website.
- PATH. Japanese encephalitis—questions and answers.
- US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Japanese Encephalitis.
- WHO. Japanese Encephalitis.
Page last updated: December 2015.
Photo: PATH/Aaron Joel Santos.