Japanese encephalitis – India
Acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) has started taking its toll on children in Bihar, India. Two children with symptoms of AES have been admitted to Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) in Muzaffarpur in the last three days.
The AES patients have been admitted to the preventive intensive care unit ward and are under close observation of a senior doctor of the hospital. The SKMCH has already earmarked 100 beds for AES patients. The AES cases have started being reported with the rise in summer temperature.
All the health facilities in the AES-hit areas have been put on alert. The authorities have already started awareness campaign in the worst-hit areas asking people to take precautionary measures.
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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