There is no Japanese Encephalitis outbreak, the Department of Health (DOH) assured, but as more people become aware of the disease, more cases may be reported in the coming days.

Secretary of Health Paulyn Ubial said there is no surge in cases, but it is best if families, communities and local executives will intensify their mosquito control programme to decrease chances of infection, particularly in areas that are high-risk.

Humans can acquire JE infection when bitten by an infected mosquito. These insects bite day and night, and more commonly in rural and agricultural areas.

Preventive measures will also protect against dengue and chikungunya, both of which are mosquito-borne.

“As the country moves further into the rainy season, there is typically a rise in mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue,” said the DOH in a press statement.

“Many areas in the Philippines can see more cases in the coming weeks. That is why it is important for LGUs to step up on reporting and notification of any suspect case,” Health officials said, noting an increase in health-seeking behaviour and heightened awareness, which led to increase reporting.

As of August 26, 133 cases have been laboratory confirmed by the Epidemiology Bureau of the DOH. "The DOH-EB recorded a 44 percent decrease of laboratory confirmed JE cases all over the country as compared to the same period last year," according to the statement.

There have been nine deaths due to the infection, most of which were reported in areas in Central Luzon where seven perished, four in Pampanga, one in Nueva Ecija and two in Zambales. Two other deaths have been reported in Pangasinan and Laguna, according to Sun Star.

In search of vaccine 

With heightened awareness about the disease, residents have been turning to rural health units asking to reserve vaccines. Unfortunately, this has not been possible.

In Laguna, the Provincial Health Office said that there has been a shortage in JE vaccine in their area, and many hospitals have no stocks of the vaccine, according to a report from the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Laguna had two confirmed cases, one from San Pablo City who survived and another in the town of Calauan, who unfortunately died.

Dr Rene Bagamasbad, Laguna provincial health officer, noted that there could be a fresh batch of vaccine to be made available in a week.

Japanese Encephalitis vaccination

DOH is planning to include JE vaccination in the national immunization programme as soon as 2018 for children.

“The DOH is firming up plans to introduce JE vaccination among young children in 2018,” according to the statement, but the department also added that the, “timing of the vaccination against the disease is factored in when administering the vaccine.”

Earlier in August when Secretary Ubial was interviewed, she said, “it’s already in our pipeline for the national immunization programme... we will be introducing the JE vaccine by next year.”

“Prevention is better than cure. If there is a vaccine that will actively prevent the illness, then why not?” Secretary Ubial added.

Focus on 4S - DOH

Still JE prevention - like dengue - should focus on destruction of mosquito breeding sites and environmental cleanliness, the department underscored.

The DOH's battle cry against mosquito related illnesses has always been vector control, whether that be dengue, malaria, chikungunya or Zika.

JE presents with no signs and symptoms 5 to 15 days after being bitten. However, once illness shows, symptoms could include fever, chills, headache, nausea, vomiting, confusion and seizures, paralysis, coma and death in severe cases. Treatment remains supportive.

“I urge the public to take JE preventive measures following the 4S against dengue and other mosquito-borne diseases. This includes getting rid of standing water, maintaining environmental cleanliness and eliminating potential breeding places of mosquitoes; wearing protective clothing and using FDA-approved insect repellents; seeking immediate consultations; and saying no to indiscriminate fogging,” Secretary Ubial reminded. MIMS

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