Vac­cine pro­gram aims to head off Ja­panese en­cephali­tis out­break

The Myanmar Times - - News - HTIKE NANDA WIN news­room@mm­times.com

HEALTH of­fi­cials are fight­ing back against a deadly out­break of Ja­panese en­cephali­tis, which has killed 19 peo­ple, in­clud­ing four chil­dren, since Jan­uary. The De­part­ment of Pub­lic Health has launched a pro­gram to vac­ci­nate 40,000 peo­ple in the hard­est-hit lo­ca­tions.

Be­cause of the high price of the vac­cine, the de­part­ment is fo­cus­ing on Rakhine and north­ern Shan states, where four chil­dren died within a month.

Dr Aung Kyaw Moe, as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of the pro­gram, told The Myan­mar Times yes­ter­day that health work­ers would con­cen­trate on 10 town­ships in the two states that had suf­fered the high­est rate of fa­tal­i­ties.

“We have vac­cine only for 40,000 peo­ple, so we’ll go first to north­ern Shan State, which has suf­fered the high­est death rate, and then to Rakhine State in Septem­ber or Oc­to­ber. We’ve also asked UNICEF to help since end of 2014. We will be able to vac­ci­nate more peo­ple when we get enough funds for more vac­cine,” he said.

The dis­ease is also found in Aye­yarwady, Yan­gon and Bago re­gions and Kayin and Mon states.

In all, 173 peo­ple have been di­ag­nosed with the dis­ease.

“Two chil­dren died within eight months in Yan­gon, but there are no other cases now in Yan­gon Re­gion,” said re­gional chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer Dr Win Lwin.

The vac­ci­na­tion costs K35,000 for pri­vate pa­tients at Yan­gon Hos­pi­tal.

Ja­panese en­cephali­tis oc­curs mainly in ru­ral parts of Asia. It is spread through the bite of an in­fected mos­quito and does not spread from per­son to per­son. Most in­fected peo­ple show no symp­toms, but oth­ers might com­plain of a mild fever and headache, or suf­fer a more se­ri­ous fever, neck stiff­ness, seizures and coma. About one in four vic­tims dies, and sur­vivors may be left with per­ma­nent dis­abil­ity. Un­born chil­dren are at par­tic­u­lar risk.

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