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Encephalitis (cont.)

Encephalitis Prevention

There are no commercially available human vaccines for most arboviral diseases in the U.S. There is a Japanese encephalitis vaccine available in the U.S., but it is for ages 17 and above and not widely available. Equine (horse) vaccines are available for EEE, WEE, and Venezuelan equine encephalitis (VEE), but none of these are available for humans. A vaccine against human encephalitis is available in Europe against viruses that are transmitted by tick vectors (tick-borne encephalitis or TBE or TBEV), but this vaccine is not available in the U.S. currently (2013). Some of the causes of encephalitis are contagious (for example, herpes, HIV, and most bacterial causes) while others require vectors like mosquitoes or ticks (West Nile virus, WEE, VEE, and others) and are not spread from person to person.

The following measures are suggestions for prevention of encephalitis that is transmitted by vectors (mosquitoes, ticks):

  • Seek early treatment for any high fever or infections.
  • Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts to avoid ticks and mosquitoes when in forests or grassy areas.
  • Use insect repellant in exposed areas of the body.
  • Avoid spending a long time outdoors during dusk when insects tend to bite.
  • A Caesarian section (C-section) can be performed if the mother has active herpes lesions of the genital tract to protect the newborn.
  • Vaccinate children against viruses that can cause encephalitis (measles, mumps).
  • Japanese encephalitis can be prevented with three doses of the vaccine. Take precautions when traveling to areas where this strain is common (available mainly for ages 17 and older).
    • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the vaccine is not recommended for all travelers to Asia. It should be offered to people spending a month or longer in areas where the disease-causing mosquitoes are known to be present and during the transmission season. However, travelers spending fewer than 30 days should receive the vaccine if the area is experiencing an epidemic outbreak.
    • The benefit of the vaccine should be weighed against the side effects and the risk of developing the disease by getting the shot. The risk of developing a serious allergic reaction such as hives is low.
    • Special consideration should be given to the elderly and pregnant women. The elderly have a higher chance of developing symptoms with infection. The Japanese encephalitis virus can infect the fetus and cause death. Therefore, these two groups should be cautious when traveling abroad.

Prevention methods of human-to-human transfer of specific viral, bacterial, and other rare causes of encephalitis are detailed in individual articles available in links to the specific diseases (for example, herpes, HIV, and specific bacterial types).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/27/2013

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