The Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (Taiwan CDC) announced Thursday this year’s first case of Japanese encephalitis confirmed in Tainan City. The case is a 45-year-old foreign female who lives in Taiwan due to work.

Japanese encephalitis/CDC
Japanese encephalitis/CDC

According to the CDC,  in the evening of May 30, she was rushed to the hospital and hospitalized for treatment after she developed splitting headache, fever and unconsciousness. The hospital reported her to the local health authority as a suspected Japanese encephalitis case and submitted her specimens for laboratory testing. Infection with Japanese encephalitis was confirmed in the case on June 7. As of now, the case’s condition has improved, but she is still hospitalized for treatment.

According to the epidemiological investigation, the case had not recently traveled overseas, had not been vaccinated against Japanese encephalitis, and spent most of her time at home (Danei District, Tainan City) and work area (Danei District, Tainan City). She occasionally visited Yujing District, Tainan City on her off days for grocery shopping. Within approximately 1 km distance of the case’s residence and work place, there is bird and pig farming. Hence, it was determined that she might have caught the infection around her residence.

Thus far this year, as of June 8, 2017, 2 Japanese encephalitis cases have been confirmed in Taiwan, including 1 case in Kaohsiung City and 1 case in Tainan City. During 2012 and 2016, the total numbers of confirmed Japanese encephalitis cases respectively are 32, 16, 18, 30 and 23.

Japanese encephalitis (JE) is the most important cause of viral encephalitis in Asia. About 68,000 clinical cases are reported annually. It usually occurs in rural or agricultural areas, often associated with rice farming.

JE virus is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected Culex species mosquitoes, particularly Culex tritaeniorhynchus.

Most JE virus infections are mild (fever and headache) or without apparent symptoms, but approximately 1 in 250 infections results in severe disease characterized by rapid onset of high fever, headache, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, seizures, spastic paralysis and death. The case-fatality rate can be as high as 30% among those with disease symptoms.

There is a protective vaccine against Japanese encephalitis virus.

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