The Japanese encephalitis outbreak in India has killed more than 150 people to date and health officials fear this number could rise.

Public domain photo/Robin klein
Public domain photo/Robin klein

According to a report in The Peninsula today,  102 people have died in West Bengal state from the mosquito-borne virus that can cause damage and seizures.

In addition, another 56 people have died in the remote, northeast state of Assam with more than 300 infected with the virus, an official said yesterday.

“We have alerted health officials across the state to take preventive measures to stop Japanese encephalitis from spreading to newer areas,” Parthajyoti Gogoi, regional director of health and the family welfare department in Assam, said.

Japanese encephalitis (JE) virus is the leading cause of vaccine-preventable encephalitis in Asia and the western Pacific. It is a viral disease transmitted by Culicine mosquitoes.

Most human infections are asymptomatic or result in only mild symptoms. However, a small percentage of infected persons develop inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), with symptoms including sudden onset of headache, high fever, disorientation, coma, tremors and convulsions.

About 1 in 4 cases are fatal. There is no specific treatment for JE. Patient management focuses on supportive care and management of complications. Steps to prevent JE include using personal protective measures to prevent mosquito bites and vaccination.

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