By NewsDesk  @infectiousdiseasenews

A teenage girl from Pangasinan province in the northern Philippines has died from the mosquito-borne disease, Japanese encephalitis (JE), the first such fatality in the province.

According to a PhilStar report Thursday, 14-year-old Jasmine Prestoza of Barangay San Vicente was hospitalized for several days for suspected dengue at a Dagupan hospital.

Japanese Encephalitis vaccine
U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Stewart

Health officials in Pangasinan are working with officials in Tarlac, as this is where Jasmine studied, to see if other students are infected.

According to the Philippines Department of Health, JE is a mosquito-borne viral disease and is the leading cause of viral encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) in Asia. Children are most at risk of JE. One in every 250 of those infected with the JE virus will succumb to severe illness, with an onset characterized by flu-like symptoms (sudden onset of high fever, chills, headache, and tiredness). Disease may rapidly progress to severe encephalitis (infection of the brain). At this stage, a patient may experience symptoms like mental disturbances and progressive decline in consciousness to coma. Convulsions occur in >75% of paediatric patients.

Three out of 10 JE cases that progress to severe illness will die. Among those who survive, more than half will show serious residual neurologic, psychosocial, intellectual and/or physical disabilities such as paralysis, recurrent seizures, or inability to speak.

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The JE virus is transmitted by Culex mosquitoes that breed in water pools and flooded rice fields. Those who live close to rice fields and pig farms are at most risk.

The Philippines is endemic for JE, with cases recorded in every region in the country. The DOH Epidemiology Bureau data shows that JE virus is the cause of encephalitis in 15% of all cases of acute encephalitis and recorded 122 laboratory confirmed JE cases in 2016 and 275 in 2017. In 2018, there were 340 laboratory confirmed JE cases, with Region III reporting the highest number of cases (110), followed by Regions I and II.

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