In a follow-up on the Japanese encephalitis (JE) situation in Penang state, Malaysia, the Penang Health Department reported three additional JE cases, bringing the total to six this year.

Image/qimono via pixabay

State Agriculture, Agro-based, Rural Development and Health Committee chairman Dr Norlela Ariffin said 2 new cases were detected in Sungai Bakap, Seberang Perai Selatan (SPS), and one case in Balik Pulau, Barat Daya district.

“I was informed by the Penang Health Department that the 3 cases have been confirmed positive and the victims are children, but all of them are reported to be in stable condition,” she said.

According to officials, these  are the first cases reported in the state since 2018.

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.