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Taiwan reports first Japanese encephalitis death this year

05/15/2024 08:47 PM
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One of the seven pig farms near the deceased man, who died after contracting the mosquito-transmitted disease and developing serious complications. Photo courtesy of Kaohsiung City Department of Health May 15, 2024
One of the seven pig farms near the deceased man, who died after contracting the mosquito-transmitted disease and developing serious complications. Photo courtesy of Kaohsiung City Department of Health May 15, 2024

Taipei, May 14 (CNA) Taiwan has recorded two cases of Japanese encephalitis, including one death, the first from the disease this year, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said Wednesday.

Both cases were connected to Kaohsiung, including a man in his 60s in Gangshan District and a woman in her 70s in Zuoying District, the CDC said in a statement.

The man who had alcoholic pancreatitis sought emergency medical attention on May 4 for symptoms that included vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, and chills. After hospital admission, he experienced a fever and altered level of consciousness on May 6, followed by hearing impairment, neck stiffness, facial nerve paralysis, and difficulty swallowing on May 9.

He was later diagnosed with Japanese encephalitis and died of complications from acute meningitis on May 12, according to the CDC and Kaohsiung City Department of Health.

The woman visited a clinic on May 6 for symptoms including a fever, sore throat, vomiting and dizziness. She again sought emergency treatment on May 7 and was admitted to hospital later that day due to an altered level of consciousness. She was diagnosed with Japanese encephalitis and is still in receiving treatment in hospital, according to the authorities.

As of May 14, two cases of Japanese encephalitis have been confirmed in Taiwan this year, according to CDC data.

A Kaohsiung City worker sprays pesticide on a local street to prevent the spread of mosquito-transmitted diseases in the southern port city on Wednesday. CNA photo May 15, 2024
A Kaohsiung City worker sprays pesticide on a local street to prevent the spread of mosquito-transmitted diseases in the southern port city on Wednesday. CNA photo May 15, 2024

The Japanese encephalitis epidemic season in the country is from May to October and the peak period is from June to July. From 2020 to 2023, the number of cases recorded in Taiwan annually was 0, 2, 0 and 2, respectively, according to the CDC.

Japanese encephalitis is a viral infection that is primarily transmitted by three types of mosquitoes in Taiwan, including Culex tritaeniorhynchus, Culex annulus and Culex fuscocephala, the CDC indicated, adding that vector mosquitoes live in rice paddies, ponds, and irrigation ditches.

It suggested members of the public avoid going to high-risk areas during peak feeding hours.

Most people infected with Japanese encephalitis do not present any obvious symptoms. However, in some cases infected people may experience headaches, fever, general malaise, an altered level of consciousness, and even coma or death, according to the CDC.

Also Wednesday, opposition Kuomintang Kaohsiung City Councilor Liu Te-lin (劉德林) called on the city government to step up prevention and control of enterovirus, dengue fever and COVID-19 infections and outbreaks.

From May 5-11, the number of people seeking medical treatment for enterovirus infection reached 919 in the city, while 145 dengue fever cases have been recorded in Kaohsiung so far this year, Liu said, citing data from the local heath department.

In addition, as of May 12, Kaohsiung had reported 831 confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to Lin.

(By Chen Chieh-ling, Lin Chiao-lian, Tsai Meng-yu and Evelyn Kao)

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