DOH introduces vaccine vs. Japanese encephalitis

MANILA -- The Department of Health (DOH) has introduced to its immunization program the Japanese encephalitis (JE) vaccine -- the most effective measure to bring down JE cases nationwide.

JE is a mosquito-borne viral disease and is the leading cause of viral encephalitis or inflammation of the brain in Asia.

In a statement on Tuesday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the Philippines is one of the 12 countries with an established JE transmission.

“Only two countries have not introduced the vaccine in their immunization program, and one of these is the Philippines. Now, the Japanese encephalitis vaccine is available in the Philippines. This vaccine is WHO-prequalified and Philippine FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved. It is safe and effective,” he said.

Duque added the vaccine has been given to more than 400 million children with an excellent safety record over the years.

According to the DOH Epidemiology Bureau (EB), JE virus is the main cause of encephalitis in 15 percent of all cases of acute encephalitis.

The virus is transmitted by Culex mosquitoes that breed in water pools and flooded rice fields.

The DOH has recorded 122 laboratory-confirmed JE cases in 2016 and 275 in 2017.

In 2018, there were 340 laboratory-confirmed JE cases with Central Luzon reporting the highest number of cases at 110.

The DOH said one in every 250 of those infected with the JE virus will succumb to severe illness characterized by flu-like symptoms -- sudden onset of high fever, chills, headache, and tiredness.

The illness may rapidly progress to severe encephalitis or infection of the brain -- a stage where the patient may experience symptoms like mental disturbances and progressive decline in consciousness to coma.

“Convulsions occur in 75 percent of pediatric patients and three out of 10 JE cases that progress to severe illness will die. Among those who survive, more than half will show serious residual neurologic, psychosocial, intellectual and/or physical disabilities such as paralysis, recurrent seizures, or inability to speak,” the DOH added.

Since the JE disease activity peaks when the rainy season starts, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended the conduct of a vaccination campaign against the disease during this period.

The WHO added children are at great risk to contract the disease so these children from nine months old to less than five years old should be protected by the vaccine through an immunization campaign.

“I urge the public to protect the community from Japanese encephalitis. Protect the infants and children from contracting this deadly disease by getting JE immunization,” Duque said.

The DOH recently introduced the JE vaccine in the Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon and the Cordillera Administrative Region. (PNA)

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