Japanese Encephalitis – India

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In Assam, India, Japanese Encephalitis has claimed 23 lives in State since January.

Five deaths have been recorded in the Barpeta district; three in Nalbari district; two each in Kamrup, Kamrup (M), Udalguri, Sonitpur, Biswanath and Darrang districts and one each in Dhemaji, Dhubri and Sivasagar districts.

According to the State government, as many as 174 people have been suffering from Japanese Encephalitis in 27 districts across the State.

Around 20-30% affected patients lose their lives in Assam annually.

Japanese encephalitis (JE) is an infection of the brain caused by the Japanese encephalitis virus. While most infections result in little or no symptoms, occasional inflammation of the brain occurs. In these cases, symptoms may include headache, vomiting, fever, confusion and seizures. This occurs about 5 to 15 days after infection.

Photo: Culex mosquito.

The virus is generally spread by mosquitoes, specifically those of the Culex type. Pigs and wild birds serve as a reservoir for the virus. The disease mostly occurs outside of cities.

Prevention is generally with the Japanese encephalitis vaccine, which is both safe and effective. Other measures include avoiding mosquito bites. Once infected, there is no specific treatment, with care being supportive. Permanent problems occur in up to half of people who recover from JE.

The disease occurs in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific. bout 68 000 symptomatic cases occur a year, with about 17 000 deaths. Often, cases occur in outbreaks.

The disease was first described in Japan in 1871. Despite its name, the disease is now relatively rare in Japan as a result of large-scale immunization efforts.

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