Japanese Encephalitis as an Emerging Virus: The Emergence and Spread of Japanese Encephalitis Virus in Australasia

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Japanese encephalitis (JE) virus has a great propensity to spread, expanding its range through much of southeastern Asia in the past four decades (Umenai et al. 1985; Burke and Leake 1988; Vaughn and Hoke 1992; Monath and Heinz 1996). In the 1990s, JE spread into southern Pakistan (Igarashi et al. 1994) and to Haryana State (Prasad et al. 1993) and Kerala State (Dhanda et al. 1997) in northwestern and southwestern India, respectively. In the east, JE has invaded the eastern Indonesian archipelago, New Guinea, and the Torres Strait of northern Australia (Hanna et al. 1996b; Mackenzie et al. 1997a). The eastward spread of JE from the Oriental to the Australasian zoogeographic region and the threat this poses to the Pacific is the focus of this chapter. It is also interesting to note that there are also certain parallels in the emergence of JE in the Australasian region with the recent emergence of West Nile (WN) virus in North America, and particularly the emergence of the two viruses in novel zoogeographic regions.