There is no reason for panic, the Department of Health and a group of medical specialists assured the public over growing fears regarding the unusual number of Japanese Encephalitis cases in the country.

“We don’t want people to panic because the cases this year is lower than that of last year,” Secretary of Health Paulyn Ubial told reporters during a recent press conference.

As of August 26, there are only 133 confirmed cases of Japanese Encephalitis out of thousands of suspected cases under surveillance. There were nine deaths recorded, she added.

The Health chief reiterated that the public’s growing concern with the Japanese Encephalitis “outbreak” is mostly rooted in the fact that the department started doing surveillance back in 2014, and thus, more cases are being identified and made known to the public.

The DOH, in a previous statement, did note that there is “no outbreak” of JE but cases are expected to increase due to increased reporting.

“The public today is more active and aware. Even if their children only have a case of cough, they will bring them to a health facility,” Secretary Ubial explained.

“The cases [may be] going up, but according to our surveillance as of August 26, there is 50 percent decrease,” she added. Last year, the department recorded 273 JE cases.

Meanwhile, the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines (PIDSP) issued a similar same statement.

The misinformation in social media “caused panic as the public thought there was an increase in cases,” according to Dr Salvacion Gatchalian, the immediate PIDSP past president, who aas quoted by the Inquirer.

It’s actually because more people are reporting symptoms, Dr Gatchalian echoed the DOH stand.

99 percent of JE is asymptomatic

“The World Health Organization (WHO) is saying that 99 percent of JE is asymptomatic. Only 1 in 250 infections is serious, and that many of the infections are undetected in the population,” said Secretary Ubial.

JE is a rural disease. It needs the presence of hogs and water birds, as in the case in Pampanga where many cases are reported.

All DOH hospitals are currently on alert for Acute Meningitis and Encephalitis Syndrome (AMES). So far, only less than 10 percent of those with AMES were laboratory-confirmed to have JE, she said.

In the case that a patient contracts JE, management will be mostly supportive as there is no specific medicine to treat JE.

Case-to-case basis

According to the department, WHO does not recommend JE vaccine as a public health programme during rainy seasons. However, Secretary Ubial clarified that it’s up to the private practitioners if they believe their patients need the vaccine.

“[We advise] those in the private sector to have a case-to-case assessment of the patient. If they believe that the risk is high for their patient, they can vaccinate anytime, even during rainy seasons,” she said.

The DOH already expressed in the past that they are looking at a means to include JE vaccination in the national immunization programme beginning 2018.

Be warned of unscrupulous dealers

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released Advisory 2017-265 warning the public against unscrupulous dealers of JE vaccine, most of which are found in social media.

“Consumers availing from these unauthorized distributors or retailers are at risk of buying vaccines of poor quality, compromised by non-compliance to the required standards of FDA, or worse, at risk of buying counterfeit products,” the FDA said in a statement.  

The FDA has likewise requested the Local Government Units (LGUs) and Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) to ensure that such sales are stopped. MIMS

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