Japanese Encephalitis – Taiwan
Five people in their 40s and 50s were confirmed as infected with the disease, with one case each in Changhua, Chiayi, and Kaohsiung, and 2 in Taoyuan.
The 5 had been working or living in areas near pig pens, pigeon coops, or paddy fields, which are considered high risk for the transmission of Japanese encephalitis virus since they are prime breeding grounds for the mosquito that carries the virus.
The confirmation of the 5 most recent cases brings the total number for the year to 9.
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. About 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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