The Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) in northern Luzon, Philippines saw 24 laboratory-confirmed Japanese Encephalitis (JE) cases in 2018 after reporting 36 the three prior years combined.

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

This has prompted health officials to administer JE vaccines to children in the region. CAR is one of four pilot regions in the country.

“We will be conducting a house-to-house immunization for JE virus for children ages nine to 59 months old in the Cordillera as well in regions 1, 2 and 3,” DOH-CAR officer-in-charge Dr. Amelita Pangilinan said. About 175,000 children will be targeted by the campaign.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended the inclusion of JE in the national immunization schedules aside from those previously given free by the government in state-health institutions.

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.