The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on Friday confirmed this year’s first Japanese encephalitis case, urging people to take precautionary measures against mosquito bites as the disease’s peak season approaches.
A man in his 60s from Kaohsiung on May 1 started showing symptoms of fever, headache, convulsions and loss of consciousness, and was immediately hospitalized, the centers said.
He was reported as a suspected case and transferred to another hospital for further treatment on May 5, with test results on Friday confirming that he was infected with Japanese encephalitis, it said.
He has since slipped into a coma and is being treated at an intensive care unit, the CDC said.
The man had visited a friend in Kaohsiung’s Daliao District (大寮) and a natural recreational area in Fengshan District (鳳山) during the incubation period, CDC physician Lin Yung-ching (林詠青) said, adding that there is a pig farm and meat market as well as rice paddies near the places he visited, so he might have been infected there.
The Japanese encephalitis season lasts from May to October, with June and July the peak period, Lin said.
Most people show mild to no symptoms at all, but in some cases the patient might develop a headache, fever or aseptic meningitis, which could progress to loss of consciousness, seizures and ultimately death, he said.
About 30 to 50 percent of those who survive the serious symptoms are left with permanent brain damage, muscle weakness, learning difficulties or personality changes, Lin said, adding that young children, elderly people and people with weak immune systems are at higher risk of developing serious symptoms.
Getting vaccinated is the best prevention method, the CDC said, urging parents to have children above 15 months to get vaccinated at local health departments or contracted hospitals.
People should avoid rice paddies, ponds, trenches, animal farms and other places mosquitoes inhabit, especially at dawn and dusk, when they are most active, and take protective measures against mosquito bites when going outdoors, the CDC said.
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