New Delhi: Japanese encephalitis (JE) is a viral infection of the human brain spread through mosquito bites. JE virus or JEV is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected Culex species mosquitoes, particularly Culex tritaeniorhynchus and causes inflammation or swelling in the brain.
Domestic pigs and wild birds (especially herons) are reservoirs of the virus. Mosquitoes that feed on infected animals can become infected with the virus and then transmit it to humans. This disease is most prevalent in Southeast Asia and East Asia.
As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), the disease occurs in many parts of Asia with an estimated 68,000 clinical cases every year.
Currently, the virus is spreading its deadly sting in Uttar Pradesh’s Gorakhpur, where 70 children have lost their lives due to the infection.
Two days ago, the nation woke up to a disturbing news of the death of 30 children within 48 hours at a government-run hospital in Gorakhpur.
While reports suggest the disruption of oxygen supply led to the deaths, the children were reportedly suffering from Japanese Encephalitis.
While the UP government struggles to rise and defend itself amid the immense flak and backlash, here’s all you need to know about the infection.
Symptoms in humans include fever, headache, seizures (fits), coma. Although most people with JE virus have no symptoms, the disease can cause long-term problems such as tremors and muscle twitches, personality changes, muscle weakness, paralysis in one or more limbs or death.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for the disease, but you can reduce the risk of Japanese encephalitis by taking precautions, including avoiding mosquito bites and getting vaccinated.
- People traveling to high-risk areas should take precautions to avoid mosquito bites to reduce the risk for JE.
- Use safe and effective insect repellents and wear long-sleeved clothes to avoid mosquito bites.
- Reduce exposure to mosquitos during peak hours (dawn and dusk).
- People who are infected should avoid being bitten by mosquitoes while they are unwell.
Safe and effective JE vaccines are available to prevent the disease. JE vaccine is recommended for people who are traveling to endemic areas to reduce the risk of the virus and other mosquito-borne infectious diseases. WHO recommends that JE vaccination be integrated into national immunisation schedules in all areas where JE disease is recognised as a public health issue.
Treatment methods include rest, fluids, pain relievers and medication to relieve the symptoms and overcome the infection.
- The first case of Japanese encephalitis viral disease was documented in 1871 in Japan.
- The incubation period of JEV (time from infection until illness) is typically 5-15 days, but 1 in 250 infections develop into encephalitis.
- According to CDC, among patients who develop encephalitis, 20% – 30% die.
- Although some symptoms improve after the acute illness, 30%-50% of survivors continue to have neurologic, cognitive, or psychiatric symptoms.
- The WHO says that children are the worst-affected form the Japanese Encephalitis as most adults have immunity against the disease.
- 24 countries, including India, in the WHO South-East Asia and Western Pacific regions have endemic JEV transmission, exposing more than 3 billion people to risks of infection. These are the worst affected countries.