DOH urges public to protect themselves from mosquito bites to prevent Japanese encephalitis and cautions against use of vaccines during this period

The Department of Health (DOH) today calls on local executives and families to intensify mosquito prevention and control measures at home and in the community, and to protect themselves from being bitten by mosquitoes, particularly in high-risk areas. As the country moves further into the rainy season, there is typically a rise in mosquito borne diseases such as Dengue, Chikungunya and now Japanese Encephalitis (JE).

As of 26 August 2017, the DOH-Epidemiology Bureau recorded a 44% decrease of laboratory confirmed JE cases all over the country as compared to the same time period last year. The heightened awareness of the people resulted to an increased health seeking behavior thus increased reporting in Pampanga as noted. Many areas in the Philippines can see more cases in the coming weeks. It is important for LGUs to step-up on reporting and notification of any suspect case.

The DOH is firming up plans to introduce JE vaccination among young children in 2018. It is important that the timing of the vaccination against the disease is factored in when administering the vaccine. Studies showed that there is no known benefit of the vaccine when given during peak season. On top of this, the hallmark of JE Prevention like Dengue should focus on identification and destruction of mosquito breeding sites and environmental cleanliness.

JE is a viral disease characterized by inflammation of the brain (encephalitis). Most persons who get infected have no telltale signs and symptoms 5 to 15 days after being bitten by a mosquito. Signs and symptoms include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, confusion, and in severe cases, neck stiffness, seizures, paralysis, and coma which may lead to death. Severe cases require prompt hospitalization. Treatment remains supportive only. Those who recover from severe illness may still show signs of neurologic complications such as paralysis, recurrent seizures or inability to speak.

The virus is passed on to humans through a bite of a day- and night-biting mosquito (Culex tritaeniorhyncus). These mosquitoes commonly thrive in rural and agricultural areas. In urban areas, these mosquitoes surround houses with water storage containers. Transmission can occur year-round, often with a peak during the rainy season when mosquito populations are higher. JE is endemic in large parts of Asia including the Philippines.

“I urge the public to take JE preventive measures following the 4-S against Dengue and other mosquito-borne diseases. This includes getting rid of standing water, maintaining environmental cleanliness and eliminating potential breeding places of mosquitoes – not only within our homes, but in the entire community! Wear protective clothing such as long-sleeves and pants or socks to avoid mosquito bites, using mosquito nets at night time or even at day time or stay in well mosquito protected places like our screened homes and using FDA-approved insect repellents. When we get sick or our children develop fever for two days or flu-like symptoms, seek immediate consultation at the nearest health facilities. Let us avoid unnecessary and indiscriminate fogging activities,” Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial emphasized and noted that the government health workers are amply equipped to address these concerns.