Japanese encephalitis – Australia
Encephalitis has already been found in residents of four Australian states – Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. It is a dangerous flavivirus that belongs to the group of viruses that cause dengue fever, yellow fever and West Nile fever and is spread by mosquitoes.
In persons who develop symptoms, the incubation period (time from infection until illness) is typically 5-15 days. Initial symptoms often include fever, headache, and vomiting. Mental status changes, neurologic symptoms, weakness, and movement disorders might develop over the next few days.
At the moment, 34 cases of infection and 3 deaths are known.
Photo: Culex mosquito.
Japanese encephalitis 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.
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.
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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