HOW IS IT TRANSMITTED?
JE is caused by a flavivirus, which is closely related to the dengue, yellow fever and West Nile viruses, and is transmitted to humans by Culex mosquitoes in Asia.
The first case of JE was documented in 1871 in Japan. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), JE is the main cause of viral encephalitis in many countries in Asia, with nearly 68,000 clinical cases every year.
The JE virus lives in host animals like pigs and wading birds; the Culex mosquitoes feed on their blood and then transfer the virus to humans through bites. Wet areas such as flooded rice fields and marshes are common breeding grounds for Culex mosquitoes, although these critters have also been found in urban environments.
According to WHO, there is no specific cure for JE. Treatment is focused on relieving severe clinical signs and supporting the patient to overcome the infection.
LOOK OUT FOR SYMPTOMS
The JE virus causes either no symptoms or mild, short-lived symptoms, which are often mistaken for those of flu. Initial symptoms include fever, headache, diarrhoea and muscle pain.
In some cases, the infection can spread to the brain, causing symptoms of encephalitis such as seizures, stiff neck, muscle weakness, uncontrollable shaking of body parts, the inability to speak, paralysis, and changes in mental state that can range from mild confusion to coma. Death may result in very severe cases. For those who survive, recovery tends to be slow.