Earlier this week, the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (Taiwan CDC) announced this year’s first case of Japanese encephalitis confirmed in Chiayi County.

Taiwan map/CIA
Taiwan map/CIA

The patient, a 54-year-old female, contracted the virus while in Japan. She had not been vaccinated against Japanese encephalitis. She is currently hospitalized.

Thus far this year, as of July 3, 2017, 8 Japanese encephalitis cases have been confirmed in Taiwan, including 3 cases in Kaohsiung City, 2 cases in Pingtung County, 1 case in Tainan City, 1 case in New Taipei City, and 1 case in Chiayi County.

According to Taiwan CDC’s surveillance data, transmission of Japanese encephalitis in Taiwan occurs annually between May and October and it usually peaks between June and July. The public is urged to heighten vigilance. As vaccination is the most effective way to prevent Japanese encephalitis, people who live near or work in close proximity to pig farms or rice paddy fields that increase their risk of Japanese encephalitis infection are recommended to visit one of the hospitals under the Ministry of Health and Welfare for self-paid vaccination.

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.

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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.