SummaryRead the full fact sheet
- Japanese encephalitis is a rare but potentially serious infection of the brain caused by a virus that can be spread to humans through mosquito bites.
- Mosquitoes can transmit a range of other viruses that cause disease, including Ross River virus, Barmah Forest virus, Murray Valley encephalitis virus and West Nile/Kunjin virus.
- The most effective way to reduce your risk of Japanese encephalitis and other mosquito-borne diseases is by avoiding mosquito bites and removing mosquito breeding sites around your home.
- In Victoria, a Japanese encephalitis vaccine is available for specific groups at higher risk of exposure to Japanese Encephalitis virus.
- Mosquito surveillance and control activities are in place across Victoria to reduce the risk of Japanese encephalitis and other mosquito-borne diseases.
About Japanese encephalitis
Japanese encephalitis virus occurs in many parts of southern and eastern Asia, and in recent years has extended beyond its traditional boundaries to eastern Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the Torres Strait. Japanese encephalitis is now considered endemic in the Torres Strait region.
In early 2022, Japanese encephalitis virus was detected in pigs in Victoria and several other Australian jurisdictions (New South Wales, Queensland, the Northern Territory and South Australia). Locally acquired human cases of JE virus were subsequently confirmed.
Japanese encephalitis in Victoria
Japanese encephalitis virus was detected in Victoria for the first time in February 2022 in pigs, humans, and mosquitoes. A comprehensive response across human and animal health sectors has been implemented in Victoria following the first detections and is ongoing.
Who is at risk of Japanese encephalitis?
Anyone is potentially at risk of being bitten by mosquitoes. While most bites only cause minor swelling and irritation, an infected mosquito can potentially transmit Japanese encephalitis and other mosquito-borne diseases.
People who live, work or spend time outdoors in northern Victoria, particularly in inland riverine regions extending up towards the Murray River, may be at higher risk of Japanese encephalitis.
Symptoms of Japanese encephalitis
Symptoms usually develop 5 to 15 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
Most people with Japanese encephalitis virus infection do not have symptoms or have only mild symptoms. A small number (about 1 in every 250 people) develop severe infection of the brain (encephalitis).
Some people may have symptoms such as:
People with severe infection may develop symptoms such as:
Encephalitis may lead to death or permanent disability.
Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek urgent medical attention.
Transmission of Japanese encephalitis
Japanese encephalitis virus is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito.
It cannot be spread directly from person to person.
Prevention of Japanese encephalitis
How to protect yourself from mosquitoes
- Cover up – wear long, loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing.
- Use mosquito repellents containing picaridin or DEET on all exposed skin.
- Limit outdoor activity if lots of mosquitoes are about.
- Remove stagnant water where mosquitoes can breed around your home or campsite.
- On holidays make sure your accommodation is fitted with mosquito netting or screens.
- Don’t forget the kids – always check the insect repellent label. On babies, you might need to spray or rub repellent on their clothes instead of their skin.
Avoid applying repellent to the hands of babies or young children.
- Use ‘knockdown’ fly sprays and plug-in repellent devices indoors.
- Sleep under mosquito nets treated with insecticides if you don’t have insect screens on windows on your home or are sleeping in an untreated tent or out in the open.
- Mosquito coils can be effective in small outdoor areas where you gather to sit or eat.
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Vaccination for Japanese encephalitis
Supply of Japanese encephalitis vaccine continues to be limited in Australia. Nevertheless, people listed in the specific priority groups are advised to contact their general practitioner, local public health unit, local council or community pharmacy to confirm eligibility and arrange a vaccination appointment. Additional vaccines are expected to arrive in the first part of 2023.
Treatment for Japanese encephalitis
There is no specific treatment available for Japanese encephalitis. For people with symptoms, treatment aims to reduce the severity of the symptoms and may include medication and hospitalisation.
The best way to avoid infection is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.