Most of foreigners who live in Taiwan for pretty long time do not know or ignore the fact that Taiwan is in Japanese encephalitis area. Up to 60% of infected people are dying in first 2 weeks of disease. Other lucky ones being treated from complications for long after.
Lets compare: death rate from tick-borne encephalitis which is common in Eurasia is only 2%.
Besides that the virus of Japanese encephalitis carriers are not some rare ticks from deep forests but common mosquitoes. No need to look for them they will come flying. Especially in Taiwan where everything is so close.
Pigs and herons are reservoirs of the virus. Based on that info my European co-worker is very skeptical about possibility of getting this disease because he thinks we are urban citizens who are far from pig farms and wild birds.
Once I was riding bike in Taipei and spotted a pig farm. It was pretty clear by sounds and smell.
And I think everybody have seen many different kinds of wild herons in scenic pounds in Taipei.
One of the main way to be protected from this danger is to avoid mosquitoes. But should it be mentioned that humid subtropical Taiwan (even city center) is full of this insects. My own apartment constantly gives shelter to those little creatures who decide to leave mango trees under my window.
Annually in Taiwan registered in average 20-30 cases of Japanese encephalitis with a death rate of 2. But its not really optimistic numbers because those who undergone the disease are usually are suffer from personality disorders, learning disabilities and speech problems.
But still why its so low death rate compare to common statistics? Probably the secret is in children vaccination during pre-elementary and elementary school time period. The vaccination leaves stable immunity for the rest of life and if not excluding but reducing possible damage of the disease.
So, most of Taiwanese unlike to foreigners are vaccinated from Japanese encephalitis.
Thus, foreigners who came from countries which doesn’t have required Japanese encephalitis vaccination are in danger in Taiwan.
But the situation is not so bad because here it comes friendly and convenient Taiwan itself: in every hospital under Health Department you can make Japanese encephalitis vaccination.
It supposes 3 shots of vaccine with 1 month and 1 year intervals. In case of urgent need (like if you wanna travel to dangerous area) it can be just 2 weeks interval.
Result is a life-long immunity from Japanese encephalitis virus. Although the risk to catch the virus is still exist it most probably saves you from death and significant heath damage.
The vaccine can be received in Family Medicine clinics (in big hospitals). For those who has Taiwan National Health insurance it will cost: appointment fee + vaccine cost. Which is around 500 +100 NTD (~10 USD) per time (I took NTU Hospital as example).
Living in Russia where tick-borne encephalitis cases are often reported I personally have never met people who got this disease. Not even friends of friends. But here in Taiwan I became a witness of tragic story of my friend and colleague – Russian girl Ksenia Koza.
She didn’t go hiking to some hard-to-access mountains and haven’t helped on pig farms… She lived in center of Taipei. Once she got a fever but didn’t pay attention because she was thinking it’s a common flue. After few days she fell unconscious. And after one month in coma under intensive care in advanced Taiwan hospital she passed away.
Basically that’s why I’m writing this article: even though the chance of happening is to disparage small it doesn’t mean you are guaranteed safety.