What is Japanese Encephalitis?

Early July this year, my friend and I went panic due to hearing deaths caused by an Encephalitis I'm really wasn't aware of. I researched and learned from DOH that it was the Japanese strain that's been causing alarm to many Moms. I also knew that there is a vaccine effective enough to prevent it but it wasn't part of the routine vaccines administered by Pedia.

So what really is Japanese Encephalitis Virus (JE) - should we all be worried for us and for our kids?

I texted Leia's Pediatrician right away to ask her about JE. I'm thankful for our Pedia (Dra. Cherry Ngo of Chinese General Hospital) because she's always listening to me, explaining me things first and discusses every issue I have for Leia. She asks for my decision first and do not base it always on what's her call and on what's in the books. She told me that there's no reason to panic, but because she wasn't aware that there have been confirmed deaths because of this virus.

JE Vaccine (JEV) is not part of the routine vaccinations administered by Pedia to babies on a schedule (listed in your baby book or as per WHO / DOH guidelines). At that time, Leia's supposed to be receiving her Varicella Vaccine (Chicken Pox Vaccine), but I had to delay it given the urgent circumstance. They are both live vaccines so they cannot be administered unless a month apart. Pedia then asked me what vaccine i prefer to give at that moment, since Leia can receive the JEV also considering she's more than a year old. For everyone's information JEV costs P3,500 per shot (the next one to be given a year after). I then decided for her to receive JEV - and I don't regret it. It's not a season for Chicken Pox also, but i was also hesitant to skip this for over a month. Thankful though, Leia is healthy in general.

Facts about the Japanese Encephalitis Virus (from WHO)

- it's spread by mosquitoes (like Dengue, Yellow Fever and West Nile)

particularly the Culex Tritaeniorhynchus mosquito

- it's viral particularly in Asian Countries with Agricultural Regions

- with fatality rate of as high as 30%

- can cause permanent intellectual, behavioural or neurological problems

to 30% of those who survived

- shows no initial symptoms at times

- there is no cure

- but there are effective vaccines to prevent it

As per the World Health Organization and (as supported by Department of Health), JEV should be integrated into national immunization schedules in all areas where JE Viruses is recognized as a public health issue. Most specially in regions with birds, pig and rice farms.

Most JE infections are just mild fever and headache, with are no apparent symptoms.

But the severe symptoms include high fever, paralysis, seizures, coma, vomiting or even death.

In the Philippines alone, there have been at least 57 confirmed JE cases since January of the present year and at least 29 of these in Pampanga alone, and at least 5 of which led to death. With the rising statistics, we should all be extra careful specially that transmission intensifies now that it's rainy season.

It's necessary to protect ourselves by applying insect repellents even to our babies (as long as it's the safe kind for them), make sure your house is protected with screens, spray insect repellents on areas prone to breeding mosquitoes and most specially do not expose your skin during peak hours when mosquitoes are feeding. There's no harm in being extra in many ways, so let's do whatever we can to keep the deadly mosquitoes away from all of us.

Take Care You All ----- xoxo Rycee

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