In June 2020, Penang reported two cases of Japanese Encephalitis (JE) in the locality of Sungai Bakap, located in the Seberang Prai Selatan district. The last case reported in Penang was two years back in 2018. Do not be too complacent, knowing that there are only two cases involved so far. Children infected with the JE virus can start having symptoms anytime from 4-14 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito!

Read more: How can you do to prevent mosquito bites?

?JE is the most frequent cause of viral brain inflammation (encephalitis) in Asia. From the name itself, it gives you a hint that this disease was first discovered in Japan in the year 1871.

? Initially, JE used to infect both adults and children. However, based on the latest case reports; JE infection is only life-threatening to children in Malaysia. JE infection has a 30% mortality rate, and in those severely affected by the virus, 30% can also end up with permanent disabilities like paralysis, recurrent fitting episodes or inability to speak.

? Although JE has occurred sporadically in Malaysia, it is regularly seen (endemic) in Sarawak with the peak occurrences from October to December. Hence, JE remains to be a crucial health problem in Sarawak.

? As part of the initiative to reduce the number of JE cases, JE vaccination was introduced in July 2001, targeting children who are living in Sarawak. This vaccine is given at 9 months and 21 months. Since the introduction of JE vaccination, the numbers of JE cases has reduced significantly.

? If you are living near pig farms, paddy fields or plan to visit high-risk areas, please talk to your doctor regarding JE vaccination. Although JE has yet to be a major menace, it is best to take the necessary precautions to avoid being infected.

Please refer to my previous article on how to protect your children and yourself against mosquito bites. ?

1. Japanese Encephalitis in Malaysia : An overview and timeline by Kiven Kumar et al Acta Tropica Volume 185, September 2018, Pg 219-229
2. Japanese Encephalitis by WHO
3. Japanese Encephalitis
4. Picture credit to BMJ Journals

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All you need to know about Japanese Encephalitis (JE)



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