Japanese Encephalitis – Malaysia

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Penang (Malaysia) has reported two cases of Japanese Encephalitis in the locality of Sungai Bakap, Seberang Prai Selatan. Last time it was detected in 2018.

All health facilities in the state of Penang have been put on alert to track down new Japanese Encephalitis cases and put a halt to the outbreak. Active case detection is carried out through house-to-house visits within the area.

The Health Department will also be tracking down individuals who have reported any fever and neurological symptoms since 12 May. These symptoms include headaches, fainting, disorientation, coma, paralysis, loss of coordination and cramps.

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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