As a result of the growing scare on Japanese encephalitis, parents have been bringing their children to the Commonwealth Health Center for one week now worried that their kids may have been bitten by mosquitoes.
And Dr. Ayesha Mirza, infectious disease pediatrician at CHC, blames this on the unnecessary media hype which has only confused the local people.
“There is no cause for alarm because there are far more things that can kill them than Japanese encephalitis, like for example, drunk driving,” said Mirza.
Japanese encephalitis is a viral disease spread by mosquitoes from infected animals (usually pigs and wading birds) to humans. Since the mosquito that carries the virus breeds in flooded rice fields and pools of water, most human infections occur in rural, agricultural areas in Asia (although occasional cases have been reported from urban locations).
According to Mirza, there is no effective drug treatment for the disease but the people can take preventive measures by ensuring cleanliness and hygiene in their surroundings. Nevertheless, it is very important to seek supportive medical treatment.
It is actually plain and simple. Make sure that the environment does not have any breeding ground of mosquitoes. When children go out in the evening, they should apply insect repellant or wear protective clothing.
Mosquitoes which transmit Japanese encephalitis feed mainly on outdoors during the cooler hours at dusk and dawn.
The scare on Japanese encephalitis was mainly due to the recent report that CHC has sent a spinal fluid sample of a four-year old girl to the Center for Disease Control in the US mainland to find out if her death has something to do with the deadly virus. The girl died more than a week ago.
“We don’t know exactly what was the cause of her death. It could be just another virus,” Mirza emphasized.
The Department of Public Health has immediately issued an advisory reminding everybody of the need to ensure cleanliness in their surroundings.
In its early stages, Japanese encephalitis appears to be a flu-like illness with headache, fever gastrointestinal symptoms, confusion and other behavior disturbances. In about every 200 cases, the illness progresses to inflammation of the brain, with more than half of those cases ending in permanent disability or death.
Japanese encephalitis is mainly found in three areas: the Far East, including China, Japan, Korea, Macao, Hong Kong, southeastern Russia and Taiwan; the Indian subcontinent, including India, Bangladesh, southern Bhutan, southern Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka; and Southeast Asia, including Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Viet Nam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam and the Philippines. Occasional outbreaks have been reported in Guam and Saipan.