Japanese Encephalitis is a viral Disease that affects the nervous system of humans. Although it can affect humans, the virus is present in pigs as well as birds. According to the Department of Health (DOH), the virus is transmitted by vectors that suck blood, particularly mosquitoes of the Culex species. The DOH recorded a total of 149 cases of Japanese encephalitis. From January to August 5 of this year, the DOH recorded 57 cases, 5 of which died from the disease in the Philippines. The highest number of cases came from the city of San Fernando, Pampanga with a total of 29 cases in the first quarter of 2017.

Why is the disease alarming?

As Japanese encephalitis is a viral disease, it is hard to control. The disease is also readily transmitted by mosquitoes and highly populated areas can become infected on a larger scale. Aside from the fact that mosquitoes can spread the disease, animals like pigs can maintain the virus within the environment because they act as a reservoir for the virus. The virus affects the central nervous system of the hosts and at present, there is no cure for infected humans. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 3 out of 10 cases of Japanese encephalitis are fatal. In cases where the person survives, there can be permanent neurological damage. These neurological effects can manifest in a form of physical disability, cognitive and language abnormalities, and behavioral problems.

How can it be prevented?

As with any disease, be vigilant for signs and symptoms. If you suspect that someone is infected, take them to the closest medical facility. Although the disease cannot be cured, the data can be used for further studies. The infected person can also be isolated to prevent further spread of the disease.

According to the Merck veterinary manual, human cases of the disease have flu-like symptoms that include, fever, headaches, vomiting, and difficulty in moving.

Vaccines for Japanese encephalitis are available. According to Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial, the DOH recommend the vaccine against Japanese encephalitis in the country's national immunization program for 2018.

They have also been monitoring the disease in different regions of the country for disease surveillance. Awareness of the disease is also a primary concern of the DOH, both for locals and travelers to the country. The public is being urged to control the mosquito population by keeping the environment clean and destroying breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Used tires and stagnant drums should all be emptied or covered.