10 Important Facts about the Deadly Japanese Encephalitis That Everyone Should Know

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In the Philippines, the mosquito-borne diseases are prevalent. These diseases include dengue, Chikungunya, malaria, and filariasis, and now—Japanese Encephalitis. Dengue, chikungunya, and Japanese encephalitis are caused by viruses while malaria and filariasis are caused by parasites.

If you are still now aware or knowledgeable about the disease, here are ten crucial facts about the disease you need to know:

It targets the brain of its victim.

Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain which can cause fever, headache, confusion, seizures, and, in some cases, death. Less than 1 percent of people infected with the virus develop symptoms. However, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is fatal for 30 percent of those who do develop symptoms.

It is mainly found in some parts of Asia.

Japanese encephalitis (JE) virus is a leading cause of encephalitis in Asia, causing an estimated 67,900 JE cases annually. Local transmission of JE virus has not been detected in Africa, Europe, or the Americas. Transmission principally occurs in rural agricultural areas, often associated with rice cultivation and flood irrigation. In some areas of Asia, these ecologic conditions may occur near, or occasionally within, urban centers. In temperate areas of Asia, transmission is seasonal, and human disease usually peaks in summer and fall.

The very first case was from Japan.

The first case of Japanese encephalitis viral disease (JE) was documented in 1871 in Japan.

The virus is found in pigs and birds.

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The virus is maintained in an enzootic cycle between mosquitoes and amplifying vertebrate hosts, primarily pigs and wading birds. Humans are incidental or dead-end hosts, because they usually do not develop a level or duration of viremia sufficient to infect mosquitoes—therefore it cannot be passed from human to human.

JEV is transmitted to humans through bites from infected mosquitoes of the Culexspecies (mainly Culex tritaeniorhynchus).

Humans, once infected, do not develop sufficient viraemia to infect feeding mosquitoes. The disease is predominantly found in rural and periurban settings, where humans live in closer proximity to these vertebrate hosts.

The flavivirus is the main pathogen of Japanese Encephalitis.

JE is an enveloped RNA virus, flavivirus, which includes the viruses that cause yellow fever, dengue, Japanese B encephalitis, Kyasanur Forest disease, St. Louis encephalitis, tick-borne encephalitis, and West Nile encephalitis. Mosquitoes are the most common vector, with some species being tick-borneand some having no known vector.

Humans are dead-end hosts.

 

Humans are incidental or dead-end hosts, because they usually do not develop a level or duration of viremia sufficient to infect mosquitoes—therefore it cannot be passed from human to human.

The symptoms of Japanese encephalitis may develop abruptly.

Most JEV infections are mild (fever and headache) or without apparent symptoms, but approximately 1 in 250 infections results in severe clinical illness. Severe disease is characterized by rapid onset of high fever, headache, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, seizures, spastic paralysis and ultimately death. The case-fatality rate can be as high as 30% among those with disease symptoms.

Of those who survive, 20%–30% suffer permanent intellectual, behavioural or neurological problems such as paralysis, recurrent seizures or the inability to speak.

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There is no cure for the said disease.

 

No specific treatments have been found to benefit patients with JE, but hospitalization for supportive care and close observation is generally required. Treatment is symptomatic. Rest, fluids, and use of pain relievers and medication to reduce fever may relieve some symptoms.

But there is a vaccine for Japanese Encephalitis.

IMOJEV is a vaccine that helps to protect you or your child against Japanese encephalitis. The vaccine may be administered to persons of 9 months of age and over. When an injection of IMOJEV is given, the immune system (body’s natural defences) will protect against Japanese encephalitis infection. However, as with all vaccines, 100% protection cannot be guaranteed.

In adults, IMOJEV will generally begin protecting against Japanese encephalitis 2 weeks after the injection. In children, IMOJEV will generally begin protecting against Japanese encephalitis 4 weeks after the injection.

IMOJEV will not prevent Japanese encephalitis if you or your child is incubating the disease before vaccination or if the encephalitis is caused by another virus. Unfortunately, these vaccines are expensive and very hard to find in the Philippines. The Inquirer asked a number of private hospitals in the province and was told that they had run out of stock of the vaccine.

 

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