5 new Japanese encephalitis cases reported in Taiwan in past 2 weeks

07/07/2020 09:12 PM
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A baby gets Japanese encephalitis vaccination at a health center in Chiayi. Photo courtesy of Chiayi County Health Bureau
A baby gets Japanese encephalitis vaccination at a health center in Chiayi. Photo courtesy of Chiayi County Health Bureau

Taipei, July 7 (CNA) Taiwan is currently in the peak season for Japanese encephalitis, with five new cases confirmed around the country recently, according to a statement issued Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

From June 16 to July 2, five people in their 40s and 50s were confirmed as infected with the disease, with one case each in Changhua, Chiayi and Kaohsiung, and two in Taoyuan, according to the CDC.

The patients developed symptoms of fever, headache, an unsteady gait, dysarthria, neck stiffness, irritation and altered levels of consciousness, the CDC said, adding that the five patients have been hospitalized and are undergoing treatment.

The five had been working or living in areas near pig pens, pigeon coops or paddy fields, which are considered high risk for the transmission of Japanese encephalitis since they are prime breeding grounds for the mosquito that carries the virus.

The confirmation of the five most recent cases brings the total number for the year to nine, including two each in Taoyuan, Kaohsiung and Pingtung and one each in Changhua, Chiayi and Tainan.

From 2016-2019, Taiwan recorded 9, 16, 31 and 13 cases of Japanese encephalitis, respectively, with most of the patients in their 40s, CDC data shows.

In Taiwan, Japanese encephalitis is usually prevalent from May to October and peaks between June and July. The disease is mainly transmitted by the Culex tritaeniorhynchus mosquito, which is known to breed in rice fields, ponds and irrigation canals.

The CDC has advised the public to avoid visiting such places and farms, especially at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active and to make sure children are vaccinated against the disease.

If visiting the areas is unavoidable, people are urged to use a government-approved mosquito repellent and wear light-colored clothing that covers most of the body.

(By Chen Wei-ting and Evelyn Kao)

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