A mosquito-borne virus… again: a Japanese Encephalitis explainer

Filipinos have co-existed with mosquitoes for so long. Being in the tropics where half of the year is rainy, the country is indeed a perfect breeding ground for these pesky insects. We have been accustomed to their itchy bites, and hearing on the news about the deadly diseases, such as Dengue, which they may bring.

In the recent years, the Philippines and the rest of the world had been rattled by more mosquito-borne viruses like Chikungunya and Zika. It even came to the point that the World Health Organization declared Zika as a public health emergency. Yet, it seems like another one of such viruses has come to town – the Japanese Encephalitis (JE) virus.

The causative agent of JE is transmitted by the culex mosquito. Symptoms of the disease may take up to 15 days to develop. These include Dengue-like symptoms (fever, headache, vomiting), as well as confusion and difficulty in moving. As the disease progresses, inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), coma, paralysis and death may occur. Currently, there is no cure for JE. Thus, this viral infection is really something to be extremely cautious about.

From January up to August 5 of this year, the Department of Health (DOH) has already reported a total of 57 JE cases, 5 of which resulted in death. Majority of the cases (29) came from Pampanga, while two deaths in Laguna just this week are being investigated whether they  were due to JE or not.

In response to the alarming statistics, DOH is mulling the inclusion of the vaccine for JE in its national immunization program by next year. The Department is also exerting efforts in raising public awareness regarding the peculiar-sounding disease.

To learn more about JE, you may watch the info-video below:

As the cliché goes, “Prevention is better than cure.” Especially now that there is no definitive treatment yet for JE, preventing infection, primarily through vaccination, remains to be the most effective intervention against the viral disease. However, the vaccine is still limited in the Philippines, and is costly at up to Php 5,000 each shot. Hence, I am looking forward for it being part of the country’s national immunization program. Hopefully, with strengthened campain on public awareness regarding JE, this will be realized soon.

The info-video has been commissioned by students from the College of Medicine of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, Philippines. If you want a similar video, feel free to contact me through the Contact page of this blog, or my Facebook page.

This blog post’s featured image is from the Mosquito Research and Management.

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