From The Star,
Penang boy believed to have caught disease while camping
GEORGE TOWN: A new Japanese Encephalitis (JE) case has been detected in Penang after a 12-year-old boy was admitted to a private hospital here.
Year Six schoolboy Muhammad Ammar Muqrish Zulkifli from SK Kampung Selamat in Tasek Gelugor, Butterworth, was believed to have contracted the disease while on a camp programme organised by the school at its premises in April.
The boy, who has been in a semi-conscious state for about a month now, was first diagnosed with the disease on June 27 after a second round of blood tests.
Penang Health Department director Datuk Dr Lailanor Ibrahim confirmed the matter and said the boy was now in the intensive care unit of the hospital.
“We received his medical report and a test on the boy’s spinal fluid carried out by the hospital found that it was JE positive.
“We will run a thorough check, including carrying out interviews and health examinations on the patient’s family members and friends as well as checking at his school to find out how he could have been infected with the virus,” he said.
The incidence of Japanese encephalitis(JE) has been very low in Malaysia, although outbreaks has been reported in the past. The recent case in Penang, where JE virus was detected in the fluid surrounding the brain of a young boy who returned from a field trip, is likely to spark some concern. As with dengue, there are no known treatment for this virus, whose main reservoir is in pigs and birds. It is the Culex mosquitoes(pic) that transmits them to humans.
Most JE infections goes unnoticed with perhaps mild viral symptoms, with only a small fraction presenting with encephalitis. Once infected, you get a lifelong immunity towards it. Based on the gene that codes for the envelope of the virus, there are 5 genotypes. There are available vaccines.
So should you go running to get a vaccine? Not just yet perhaps, as human to human transmission is rare. The Culex mosquitoes mainly targets Swine and cattle. Perhaps it is necessary for animal owners to monitor their herd and the surrounding population to be closely monitored. If there is indeed an outbreak of cases, then it would be necessary to immunize the target population at risk.