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Virol J. 2008 Oct 30;5:134. doi: 10.1186/1743-422X-5-134.

The incidence of acute encephalitis syndrome in Western industrialised and tropical countries.

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  • 1Division of Neuroscience, University of Liverpool, Clinical Sciences Centre, Lower Lane, Liverpool L97LJ, UK. fidanjmor@hotmail.com



As part of efforts to control Japanese encephalitis (JE), the World Health Organization is producing a set of standards for JE surveillance, which require the identification of patients with acute encephalitis syndrome (AES). This review aims to provide information to determine what minimum annual incidence of AES should be reported to show that the surveillance programme is active.


A total of 12,436 articles were retrieved from 3 databases; these were screened by title search and duplicates removed to give 1,083 papers which were screened by abstract (or full paper if no abstract available) to give 87 papers. These 87 were reviewed and 25 papers identified which met the inclusion criteria.


Case definitions and diagnostic criteria, aetiologies, study types and reliability varied among the studies reviewed. Amongst prospective studies reviewed from Western industrialised settings, the range of incidences of AES one can expect was 10.5-13.8 per 100,000 for children. For adults only, the minimum incidence from the most robust prospective study from a Western setting gave an incidence of 2.2 per 100,000. The incidence from the two prospective studies for all age groups was 6.34 and 7.4 per 100,000 from a tropical and a Western setting, respectively. However, both studies included arboviral encephalitis, which may have given higher rather than given higher] incidence levels.


In the most robust, prospective studies conducted in Western industrialised countries, a minimum incidence of 10.5 per 100,000 AES cases was reported for children and 2.2 per 100,000 for adults. The minimum incidence for all ages was 6.34 per 100,000 from a tropical setting. On this basis, for ease of use in protocols and for future WHO surveillance standards, a minimum incidence of 10 per 100,000 AES cases is suggested as an appropriate target for studies of children alone and 2 per 100,000 for adults and 6 per 100,000 for all age groups.

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