To update the estimated global incidence of Japanese encephalitis (JE) using recent data for the purpose of guiding prevention and control efforts.
Thirty-two areas endemic for JE in 24 Asian and Western Pacific countries were sorted into 10 incidence groups on the basis of published data and expert opinion. Population-based surveillance studies using laboratory-confirmed cases were sought for each incidence group by a computerized search of the scientific literature. When no eligible studies existed for a particular incidence group, incidence data were extrapolated from related groups.
A total of 12 eligible studies representing 7 of 10 incidence groups in 24 JE-endemic countries were identified. Approximately 67 900 JE cases typically occur annually (overall incidence: 1.8 per 100 000), of which only about 10% are reported to the World Health Organization. Approximately 33 900 (50%) of these cases occur in China (excluding Taiwan) and approximately 51 000 (75%) occur in children aged 0–14 years (incidence: 5.4 per 100 000). Approximately 55 000 (81%) cases occur in areas with well established or developing JE vaccination programmes, while approximately 12900 (19%) occur in areas with minimal or no JE vaccination programmes.
Recent data allowed us to refine the estimate of the global incidence of JE, which remains substantial despite improvements in vaccination coverage. More and better incidence studies in selected countries, particularly China and India, are needed to further refine these estimates.