‘The effects of not getting the necessary shots can be devastating’
Bill Hughes was on vacation in Thailand when he was infected with Japanese encephalitis by a mosquito.
Within days he slipped into a coma, dying four months later. His daughter Jillian Hughes, is now sharing her father’s story in the hopes it will encourage other Canadians to take the need for travel vaccinations more seriously.
“I think everyone has a responsibility,” Hughes said in an interview with CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM. “You have a responsibility to yourself, to your family and to your community. “The effects of not getting the necessary shots can be devastating.”
Hughes, an otherwise fit and healthy man who spent his time travelling and training for triathlons, slipped into a coma. He died on May 10, 2016, at 62.
Hughes’s daughter Jillian is sharing her father’s story in the hopes it will encourage others Canadians to take the need for travel vaccinations more seriously. (Supplied)
When Jillian Hughes arrived in Thailand after receiving news her father was ill, she had to no idea how dire the situation had become.
By the time she arrived at his bedside, her father was comatose, in critical condition, battling a dangerously high fever. “My dad had always been so healthy and it was shocking for me to show up and see the situation he was in. I was just really shocked to find him completely incapacitated.”
The family scrambled to bring Hughes home to Edmonton for further treatment, raising thousands of dollars through a crowdfunding campaign for the medical transport. He died only 10 days after arriving home. “Even though people might think there is a low risk for it, the downside, if you are one the people who gets it, is so damaging,” Hughes said.
“Even the people who survive have debilitating problems for the rest of their life. It’s just not worth it to skip out on anything.”
Japanese encephalitis, found in pigs and birds, occurs mostly in South-East Asia and the Western Pacific islands. According to the U.S. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, most people infected with the virus do not develop symptoms.
However, a small percentage of infected people develop inflammation of the brain, with sudden onset of headache, high fever, disorientation, coma, tremors and convulsions. The Canadian government lists Japanese encephalitis among seven specific “vaccines to consider” when travelling to Thailand.