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Japanese Encephalitis in Thailand

03 Sep 2013

A recent publication reported on a severe case of imported Japanese encephalitis (JE) in a traveller who developed symptoms after spending three weeks in a tourist area of Thailand.

A 20 year-oldĀ man travelled to Thailand on 25 January 2013, the expected duration of the trip was six weeks. Upon arriving in Thailand, he visited Bangkok for two days where he stayed in a hotel. On 28 January he travelled by bus to Surat Thani, where he took the ferry to Koh Samui island. He stayed in a bungalow on the beach (Chaweng and Lamai beaches) during his stay. In Koh Samui he also visited rural areas, visited waterfalls in the forest where he was bitten by mosquitoes.

On 21 February, the traveller was admitted to hospital in Koh Samui with a 48 hr history of fever, muscle pain, malaise and headache. On 23 March, after being diagnosed in Thailand as a probable case of JE, he was transferred to a hospital in his home country. He continues to slowly recover.

It is estimated that the risk for travellers to these areas remains very low. To date, only 62 cases have been published in patients not living in endemic areas between 1973 and 2013, (30 imported cases in Europe).

Advice for Travellers

This rare report of Japanese encephalitis (JE) in a traveller highlights the importance of seeking travel health advice from a healthcare professional before a trip to Southeast Asia. JE vaccine is available for those considered to be at risk and bite avoidance measures are recommended for all travellers to Thailand.