The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday reported four new cases of Japanese encephalitis confirmed last week, including a three-month-old baby, the youngest case ever reported in Taiwan.
CDC Epidemic Intelligence Center Director Liu Ting-ping (劉定萍) said that the cases were from New Taipei City’s Sanchong District (三重), Taoyuan City’s Bade District (八德), Taichung City’s Tanzih District (潭子) and Changhua County’s Datsun Township (大村).
They all lived or worked near rice paddy fields, ponds, pig pens or pigeon farms, which are ideal breeding sites for mosquitoes, she said, adding that the patient in Taichung rents a house in Nantou City near rice paddy fields and pigeon farms, so he is more likely to have contracted the disease in Nantou.
CDC physician Lin Yung-ching (林詠青) said that three of the patients are men in their 40s to 60s, and the other is a three-month-old boy in Changhua County.
The infant is the youngest case of Japanese encephalitis reported since it was designated a notifiable communicable disease in 1999, he said.
The previous youngest case was a six-month-old girl reported in 2007, Lin said.
The boy experienced a high fever, loss of appetite, and was crying and screaming, he said.
He was taken to a clinic, where he was referred to a hospital for further examination, Lin said, adding that he suffered convulsions at the hospital and was later diagnosed with Japanese encephalitis.
“Japanese encephalitis vaccination is recommended for children older than 15 months, but the baby is only three months old and was not yet vaccinated,” Lin said, adding that parents should help their young children with personal protective measures against mosquito bites when going outdoors.
Insect repellents containing the active ingredient diethyltoluamide (DEET) are only recommended for children above two months old, he said.
Parents should choose products with DEET content of no more than 30 percent, Lin said, adding that insect repellents containing picaridin are recommended for children above six months old.
Less than 1 percent of infections are symptomatic, but young children and elderly people are at higher risks of suffering symptoms from infection, he said.
Usually, cases that need to be hospitalized are more serious and might have a mortality rate of 20 to 30 percent, and lead to lifelong complications in 30 to 50 percent of the cases, Lin said.
Separately, CDC Chronic Infectious Diseases Division head Huang Yen-fang (黃彥芳) said that the government would switch suppliers for government-funded bacillus calmette-guerin (BCG) vaccines from Aug. 17 to 31.
Parents who are planning to take their children to get a BCG vaccine should avoid the period, she said.
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