Mosquitoes are well-known pests that carry a multitude of diseases. Moreover, these insects should ALWAYS be avoided because they can cause illnesses or worse – death. Here in our country, we are very much aware what mosquitoes are. Although there are chosen places which are swarmed by these pests, we still need to be careful. Dengue and Malaria are just two (2) of the many diseases mosquitoes bring. A few months ago, a new disease was reported to scatter throughout the country. This new disease is Japanese Encephalitis.
This year, the said disease is reported to have taken nine lives in our country; one from Ilocos, one from CALABARZON, seven from Central Luzon. Currently, government agencies were able to confirm 60 patients (out of 133 suspicions) to have the virus. Let us know more about the disease.
What is this Japanese Encephalitis?
In shorter terms, the Japanese Encephalitis is a virus that is somehow related to dengue. Although it is a big fear of our country now, not all people who have it will get sick or show symptoms. However, we should still take into consideration that the fatality rate is in about 30%.
There is no cure for this disease; once you have it, you have it. If you report that you have it, treatment will focus on relieving severe impacts and supporting the patient in overcoming the infection.
The outcome will literally be just dependent on the immune system of the patient. Which leads us to why children are more prone to this disease since their immune systems are weaker.
FUN FACT: The first known clinical case of Japanese Encephalitis traces back to 1871.
What are the known symptoms of Japanese Encephalitis?
For the most part, the most common symptoms of this disease are:
- Mild fevers and headaches. However, take note that there are no apparent symptoms.
- Approximately, the symptoms of JE become evident between 5 and 15 days from the day of the bite.
- The estimation of severe cases of JE is 1 out of 250.
- If it goes unnoticed, the later symptoms would include:
- Spastic Paralysis
- Swelling around the brain area
What is/are the effects of the disease?
Basically, this type of encephalitis is crucial. Since the disease itself affects the nervous system, it can cause severe neurological damages. A study in Malaysia took 100 patients and examined them. The results were:
- 3% of the patients had mild disability;
- 26% had moderate disability;
- 31% had severe disability;
- Lastly, 41% of patients made a full recovery
To further explain, the following are the effects that patients in each examinations experienced:
- Personality changes or mood swings
- Muscle weakness (twitching of arms and hands)
- Uncontrollable shaking of the hands
- Learning disabilities (mild)
- Body weakness but only on one side
- Single limb paralysis
- Severe learning difficulty
- Muscle spasms
- Limb stiffness
How can one get Japanese Encephalitis?
Fortunately, Japanese Encephalitis is not transmitted through people. The main source of the illness is literally a mosquito. According to experts, mosquitoes of the Culex species are the type of mosquitoes carry the infection.
The mosquitoes get this infection from pigs and birds specifically, water birds. Of course, the Japanese Encephalitis-carrying mosquitoes stick around areas where stagnant water is present.
How can a professional medical practitioner diagnose Japanese Encephalitis?
If you have been bitten by a mosquito and you feel like you have the symptoms, do no hesitate to seek medical help immediately. If the doctor confirms that you have been infected, your body will naturally produce a certain type of antibody to try and destroy the virus that spreads. Around approximately 7-9 days after the symptoms start, the antibody will be evident in the blood stream.
In order for doctors to determine or confirm the presence of the virus in your body, they would have to do a blood test. The antibodies you produce would also be abundant in the cerebrospinal fluid, too. So, for them to be extra sure, a sample or a test of your cerebrospinal fluid must be taken.
If confirmed, how can an individual treat Japanese Encephalitis?
Japanese Encephalitis is a relative of other mosquito diseases like malaria, dengue, and yellow fever. Since this is the case and since the symptoms of all are pretty much the same, you may think that in treating them, it’s just also on the same page. However, you might be forgetting that the JE breaks down the neurological pathways which differs this from its relative diseases in a BIG way.
Although this is the case, the Japanese Encephalitis, unfortunately cannot be treated. The only treatment one can get is stabilization and balancing of the chemicals in the body to overcome the complete spread of the virus. Thus, it really just relies on how your immune system works.
Good news is that, patients who survive the disease are more likely to develop lifelong immunity.
Prevention of Japanese Encephalitis
Nationwide, you can have a vaccine to prevent the disease from rooting in you. There are currently four (4) known and main types of vaccines. These are:
- Inactivated mouse brain-derived vaccines
- Inactivated Vero cell-derived vaccines
- Live attenuated vaccines
- Live recombinant vaccines
Safety Guidelines to avoid Japanese Encephalitis
- First, make sure that you avoid areas that are abundant in mosquitoes. Since you already know where mosquitoes get this disease, you would have a clear edge on where and where NOT to go.
- Although the disease is currently incurable, vaccines are out that could prevent the disease from occurring.
- If you got bitten by a mosquito, avoid scratching the area of the bite. Why? Because this can hasten the spread of whatever virus that mosquito has. For this purpose, use a cream that could stop the itchiness from occurring and growing.
Even though this disease is currently in big discussion, it’s not that crucial based on statistics. However even if this is the case, we cannot be carefree and rely on it. We still need to look after ourselves because who knows what might happen.