Japanese Encephalitis

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Just as people all over the world heaved a sigh of relief when no new case of SARS has been reported since June 15 (anywhere), hence the WHO's declaration last July 5,2003 that: Taiwan, the only country left with active local transmission, has finally (hopefully) broken the chain of person to person transmission ......here comes another disease, the Japanese encephalitis , which is now causing concern among Asians...

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When did Japanese encephalitis hit the news? At the end of last month (June), China Health Ministry reported a total of 296 cases with 25 deaths as of June 27, 2003. Our own DOH reported 1 confirmed case and 2 suspect cases, and all coming from Tarlac. SOME FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS Is this a new disease? No, this has been present for decades in Cambodia, China, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Korea,Vietnam, and right here in our own land. What is the cause of Japanese encephalitis? This is a disease caused by a virus (flavivirus) transmitted by blood-sucking mosquitoes(Culex) from pigs/wading birds to humans.

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Who are frequently infected? Children below 15 yrs old & the elderly. When will symptoms appear? After 4-14 days from the time of infection. What are the signs & symptoms? High-grade fever, chills, headache and neurologic manifestations like impaired senses(problems in speech, hearing, double visions, hallucinations), convulsions,tremors, & involuntary movements. Is it fatal? 10,000 of the 50,000 (ave) reported cases (worldwide) each year die from the disease.

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How about complications? Some cases are mild whereas some severe ones who recover usually suffer from neuropsychiatric sequelae. Why? Because "ëncephalitis" basically means "swelling of the brain". Is there a cure? No effective anti-viral drugs have been discovered but a Vaccine has been produced to combat infection. What is the local government doing about this at present? All aircrafts at present coming from China & Hongkong are being sprayed with permethrine, a WHO-recommended disinfectant against mosquitoes to prevent importation.The 3 local cases reported however, did not come from China since we also have it in our shores but not as a nationwide outbreak.

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When is the usual occurrence ? It peaks during and shortly after the rainy season (breeding time of mosquitoes). Where are Culex mosquitoes usually found? In water pools, and ricefields, and more common in agricultural sites in the rural areas. What can we do to prevent it? Keep surroundings clean, get rid of potential breeding places of mosquitoes, stay in screened rooms, use mosquito nets & protective clothings, insectides, or insect repellants.

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