JE or Japanese Encephalitis: Facts, Disease Prevention and the Vaccine

9/26/2017 06:00:00 AM

Dr. Salvacion Garchalian of the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines discussed the nature of Japanese Encephalitis and its effects on patients, Japanese Encephalitis is a leading cause of viral encephalitis in Asia cause by the JE virus. Transmitted by the mosquito vector of the Culex species (mainly Culex tritaeniorhynchus), it exists in a transmission cycle between mosquitoes, pigs, and/or water birds.
The public is urged to pay special attention to symptoms to ensure early detection. The virus can cause inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), leading to high fever, headache, fatigue, vomiting, confusion, and in sever cases, seizures, spastic paralysis, and coma.
Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment  for this disease. JE is fatal in 20 to 30% of cases and among those who survive, 30 to 50%  suffer from permanent disabilities.
Reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) have estimated that there are currently 3 billion people at risk for JE who are living in transmission risk areas, including 24 countries in the Southeast Asia and Western Pacific regions. JE usually occurs in rural and agricultural areas, with the disease occurring year-round in tropical countries. A local epidemiologic study showed that the virus circulates in all regions of the Philippines, including urban areas like Metro Manila, constituting a significant public health burden.
According to the WHO, the most effective way of reducing JE disease burden is through human vaccination. The WHO Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS) has reviewed data on the different types of JE vaccines (inactivated, live attenuated, and live recombinant vaccines) and has found them to have acceptable safety profiles. Public health impact studies have also shown that JE vaccination is cost-effective. Local medical societies, including the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS) and Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines (PIDSP), have recommended that JE vaccination be give to those 9 months old and above. Other preventive strategies for disease control include bet nets, repellents, long-sleeved clothes, coils, vaporizers and mosquito control measures.
In light of the increasing reports of Japanese Encephalitis (JE) cases in the news and online media, the Food and Drug Adminsitration (FDA) and Sanofi Pasteur have come together to shed light about the nature of this disease and its prevention.
As of August 2017, the Department of Health has reported 133 cases of Japanese Encephalitis in the Philippines, nine of which resulting in death. As the public grows more aware of this mosquito-borne disease, the demand for the vaccine has also spiked. A recent advisory by the FDA warned the public against purchasing the vaccines online as these sellers are not authorized and safety of these online products has not been verified.

About the Vaccine
THe JE-chimeric vaccine (JE-CV), a live attenuated recombinant vaccine, was first licensed in the Philippines in 2013. The vaccine is produced by Vero cell culture, a cell culture technology recommended by WHO. Different clinical phase sutides have demonstrated its high immunogenicity and acceptable safety profile in both adult and pediatric populations. It is administered subcutaneously as a single dose for those 9 months and older. For individuals 9 months to 17 years of age, a booster dose is recommended 12 to 24 months after the primary dose. It is contraindicated for those with a history of allergy to the vaccine or any of its components, immunodeficiency, and to pregnant or lactating women, The public is advised to visit their doctors to know more about JE and how to prevent the disease.

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