A 14-year-old girl from Pangasinan province in the northern Philippines died of the mosquito-borne disease, Japanese encephalitis (JE). It is the first such fatality in the province. According to a PhilStar report, the girl was hospitalised for several days for suspected dengue at a Dagupan hospital, before succumbing to it.
Health officials in Pangasinan are working with officials in Tarlac, where Hasmine studied, to see if other students are infected as well.
Japanese encephalitis is a mosquito-borne viral disease and is the leading cause of viral encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) in Asia. Children are more prone to this vector-borne disease.
According to the Philippines Department of Health, one in in every 250 infected with the JE virus succumb due to severe illness. The onset is characterised by flu-like symptoms (sudden onset of high fever, chills, headache, and tiredness). Disease may rapidly progress to severe encephalitis (infection of the brain). At this stage, the patient may experience symptoms such as mental disturbances and progressive decline in consciousness to coma.
More than half of those who are diagnosed with JE show serious residual neurologic, psychosocial, intellectual and/or physical disabilities such as paralysis, recurrent seizures, or inability to speak. The Japanese encephalitis virus is transmitted by Culex mosquitoes that breed in water pools and flooded rice fields. People who live close to rice fields and pig farms are more prone to fall prey to this vector-borne disease.
The Philippines is endemic for Japanese encephalitis, with a number of cases tested positive in every region in the country. According to the data by the Department of Health (DoH) Epidemiology Bureau, Japanese encephalitis virus is the cause of encephalitis in 15 percent of all cases of acute encephalitis. DoH recorded 122 lab confirmed Japanese encephalitis cases in 2016, while 275 cases were reported in 2017. The year 2018 witnessed 340 confirmed cases of Japanese encephalitis cases, with Region III reporting the highest number of cases (110), followed by Regions I and II.