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'Encephalitis not fully curable'

As Japanese Encephalitis is a viral infection, only precautions can check the spread of the disease, says Dr Faridi in an exclusive interview with Sanjay Sharma.

india Updated: Jan 27, 2006 17:23 IST

Q: What is Japanese Encephalitis?
A:
Encephalitis is a brain infection, which is caused by the JE (Japanese Encephalitis) virus, that first occurred in Japan.

Q: How serious is the disease?
A:
JE is a deadly disease. It is an acute infection, which affects people of all ages, but mortality rate is higher in children.

Q: How does its virus spread?
A:
The favourable conditions for the spread of the disease are breeding of mosquitoes and large population of pigs. Generally, this disease is seen during the onset of the rainy season in areas where pigs are found. The chances of the outbreak of this disease in Delhi are almost nil, but sporadic cases can occur.

Q: What are its symptoms?
A:
The symptoms (of the JE) are same as seen in the encephalitis caused by other viruses like sudden high temperature, headache, vomiting, convulsions, loss of cloudy (liquids), loss of consciousness and nausea. In severe cases, bleeding may occur from body orifices including vomitus, stools. The haemorrhage can also occur inside the body organs.

Q: What is the cycle?
A:
The disease is caused by the JE virus, which is a flavivirous. It is transmitted by the bite of a mosquito — Culex tritaeniorhynchus and Culex vishnui (India) — found near rice fields. Malaria's mosquitoes — Anopheles — are found in dirty water, Dengue's mosquito — Aedes Aegypti — are found in stagnant clean water, but JE's mosquitoes are found neither in dirty nor in clean water, but somewhere between the two. Water found in rice fields is a classic example.

The mosquito gets JEV by biting an infected pig or sometimes infected birds. When these infected mosquitoes bite human beings, the JEV is introduced into the human body. The JE does not get transmitted from person to person.

Q: Is there any similarity between Dengue and JE?
A:
No, these are no similarity between them, except that both the diseases spread through the bite of mosquitoes. And the mosquitoes belong to the same arbovirus family.

Q: What are the precautions one should take?
A:
As JE is a viral infection, only precautions can check the spread of the disease. The JE spreads through the infected pigs to mosquitoes and then to human beings. This can be stopped if we immunise pigs against the disease, and piggeries should be set up outside the residential areas with proper netting systems. Proper fogging and sanitation of the affected areas are a must.

As far as individuals are concerned, one can take care of proper cleanliness, hygiene of the environment and should not allow the still water in and around their residential places. Also one should use nets and mosquito repellents. Children should wear full sleeves and long pants and should not play outside at dawn and dusk.

Q: What is the treatment for JE?
A:
In Delhi, there are remote chances of finding this disease but the sporadic cases cannot be ruled out. If a patient comes to our hospital with the similar symptoms we will do some tests before starting treatment for JE. First of all, we will conduct some basic tests like blood test to know the condition of the body, then CSF (cerebro spinal fluid) test. If something positive comes in this test, we will go for culture test. Also, we will conduct the IgM test to confirm the presence of the JE virus in the body. If the IgM test confims the presence of the virus, then only will we treat the patient for JE.

Q: What are the chances of the recovery?
A:
This is not a fully curable disease. The mortality rate is around 24 to 92 per cent. Generally death occurs within seven to 10 days. All survivors may not recover fully. They may have paralysis, wasting and facial nerve invorbant. Some patients may have mental deterioration, emotional instability, speech disturbances, and change in the personality. Sequela is most common in patients who were younger than 10 years at the time of the infection.

First Published: Jan 27, 2006 17:16 IST