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Japanese Encephalitis Vaccine

What is Japanese encephalitis?

Japanese encephalitis is a serious infection caused by a virus present in many parts of Asia. The Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) is spread between mosquitoes and animals such as pigs and wading birds. If an infected mosquito bites a human, it can lead to infection and illness. The infection cannot be spread from person to person.

Most people who become infected have no symptoms, but some may experience fever and headache. The most common complication of JEV infection is encephalitis, or swelling of the brain. About 25 percent of cases with severe encephalitis infections can result in death.

What is the Japanese encephalitis vaccine?

The Japanese encephalitis vaccine is an inactivated vaccine that is very effective at preventing infection. It is a two-dose vaccine administered 4 weeks apart; the second dose must be completed at least one week before travel. The Japanese encephalitis vaccine is approved for people age 2 months and older.

Who should get the Japanese encephalitis vaccine?

  • Travelers age 17 and older who plan to live or travel to Asia in rural areas where the virus is prevalent
  • People who remain at risk of exposure one year after the first vaccination
  • Laboratory workers who may have been exposed to the Japanese encephalitis virus

Who should not get the Japanese encephalitis vaccine?

  • People with moderate or severe illness, such as a severe cold, flu or infection of the sinuses or lungs
  • Those with a history of developing a rash or wheezing after being stung by a wasp or after taking certain medications
  • Those who previously had a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction to the vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine should not be vaccinated.

Women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant should ask their doctor if they should receive the vaccine.

What are the side effects of the Japanese encephalitis vaccine?

Mild-to-moderate problems:

  • Soreness, redness or swelling where the shot was given
  • Headache and muscle aches

Severe Problems (Rare):

  • High fever or behavior changes
  • Difficulty breathing, hoarseness or wheezing
  • Hives
  • Paleness
  • Weakness
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Dizziness

Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help ease pain and reduce fever.

It is extremely rare for this vaccine to cause serious harm or death. If the person getting the vaccine has a serious reaction, call the doctor or seek immediate medical attention.

The Japanese encephalitis vaccine is available at Walgreens Pharmacy. Ages vary by state.

If you believe you have a medical emergency,  please call 911.

Call the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at 800-232-4636 or visit www.cdc.gov/vaccines for more vaccine information.

References

Hamborsky J, Kroger A, Wolfe S, eds. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases. 13th ed. Washington, DC: Public Health Foundation, 2015.

Vaccine Information Statement: Japanese Encephalitis Vaccine (What You Need to Know) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 01/24/2014. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/je-ixiaro.pdf Accessed April 2016.

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