When traveling to Asia, there are many health risks that must be considered as part of your destination planning. While we commonly view a trip to Asia as an exciting and adventurous experience, in some cases, it can turn downward, resulting in complications of health.
When traveling to specific areas of Asia, such as Southeast, East or South Asia, it is important to understand that these regions pose a far greater health risk than that of the other areas in the continent. Of particular concern to international travelers is the risk for Japanese encephalitis, a life threatening complication that affects the central nervous system.
Japanese encephalitis (JE), is the inflammatory complication of the central nervous system, usually acquired by international travelers, who come in contact with infected mosquitoes. Because pig farming is quite common in this region of Asia, JE is a health risk among communities with a profound amount of pig ranches and large infestations of mosquitoes.
As a complication of a mosquito bite, the individual who suffers from Japanese encephalitis will experience complications of the central nervous system, including the brain and spinal column. As an infection that is difficult to treat, as an international traveler to Asia, if you are infected with JE, you have only a 30 percent change of recovery.
While the incubation period for this form of encephalitis is as long as two weeks, you may not feel the effects of Japanese encephalitis until you return from your vacation. Symptoms include fever, inflammation of the meninges, headache and nausea and vomiting. If not treated promptly, your complication may lead to seizure and even coma.
Prior to traveling to these regions of Asia, meet with your healthcare professional to obtain the vaccinations needed to prevent an infection of Japanese encephalitis. In addition to vaccine, be certain to take precautionary measures to avoid areas with high mosquito infestation and always wear loose, long sleeve clothing and pants to protect your skin. Avoid travel within the country during dawn and dusk as this is the period when mosquito activity is at its highest.
As with any health risk when traveling, it is important to understand the risk and know what steps can be taken to prevent infection. When traveling to any region of Asia, ask your health care professional, in advance of your travels, about vaccinations. Upon returning from your vacation, follow up with your physician especially if you find that you are experiencing complications of encephalitis. With proper intervention, you can resolve the health complication before your central nervous system becomes compromised.