Japanese Encephalitis: Causes, Symtoms and Prevention

When every one of us is aware of Ebola, the fatal disease outbreak taking toll of lives of the people of West Africa and the health ministry of India taking all possible steps to prevent it here, little efforts are seen in the control of Japanese Encephalitis, the viral brain fever affecting the people of Assam and West Bengal. The eastern states of India, Assam and West Bengal, are fighting against a deadly outbreak of Japanese Encephalitis, killing more than 300 people over the last few weeks and affecting around 2000 people. This dangerous disease has affected seven north Bengal districts, particularly Jalpaiguri. In Assam too, Japanese encephalitis has affected many people in almost all the districts. The worst affected districts are Barpeta, Kamrup (Rural), Darrang and Nalbari according to Health Department data. It is sad but true that inspite of the fact that there is a vaccine for Japanese Encephalitis, people in both the regions are not being given the proper treatment required, leading to the deaths of many. Lack of appropriate and adequate medical facilities is making the situation worse.

Japanese Encephalitis Cycle

Causes of Japanese Encephalitis
This is caused by a mosquito-borne virus belonging to the family Flaviviridae. Usually, the domestic pigs and birds get affected by the virus, especially during the rainy monsoon season, leading to the growth of mosquito prone zones. The disease is spread by mosquitoes. Humans get affected by this disease by mosquito bites or by consuming contaminated food and water. The virus becomes a deadly one when it affects humans. It is usually the children and the infants who are immediately affected by the virus. However, this time, the virus has also affected the adults.

Symptoms of Japanese Encephalitis
Usually in most cases, the symptom of this viral infection is often considered to be flu in the initial phase. The common symptoms are: high fever, headache, muscle pain, diarrhoea and just feeling sick. Between 5 and 15 days after the infection develops, the patients develop severe symptoms like as seizures, muscle weakness, stiff neck, inability to speak and move, changes in mental state, sometimes into coma and then finally the infection spreads to the brain and causes death.

How can we prevent ourselves from the disease?
Like we say, “Prevention is better than Cure”. The first and foremost thing to do is to prevent mosquito bites. Apply mosquito repellents, wear full sleeve clothes to cover yourself, minimise outdoor activities from dusk to dawn because studies have shown that mosquitoes that carry JE virus feed during the cool hours. Visit the doctor whenever you develop any symptoms, be it a slight fever or a minor headache. If required, on the advice of the doctor, JE vaccine can be taken. Keep your surroundings clean. Clean the drains and water logged areas.