Parent’s Guide: 7 things you need to know about this deadly disease caused by mosquitoes

·7 min read

The rainy season is upon us and we should be doing our part when it comes to protecting our kids from dengue. Here are the symptoms of Japanese encephalitis, a disease that can also get from mosquitoes.

What you can read in this article:

  • What is Japanese encephalitis?

  • How do we avoid getting it?

  • What do you do when you get it?

What is Japanese encephalitis?

symptoms of japanese encephalitis
symptoms of japanese encephalitis

Picture from Freepik.

Japanese encephalitis is a viral brain infection that’s spread through mosquito bites. It’s most common in rural areas in southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands and the Far East, but is very rare in travelers.

The virus is found in pigs and birds and is passed to mosquitoes when they bite infected animals. It cannot be spread from person to person.

There’s currently no cure for Japanese encephalitis. Treatment involves supporting the functions of the body as it tries to fight off the infection.

The person usually needs to be admitted to the hospital so they can be given fluids, oxygen, and medication to treat any symptoms.


Most people infected by the Japanese encephalitis virus have either no symptoms or mild short-lived symptoms, which are often mistaken for flu.

But around 1 in every 250 people who become infected with Japanese encephalitis develop more severe symptoms as the infection spreads to the brain.

This usually happens 5 to 15 days after infection.

Symptoms can include:

  1. a high temperature (fever)

  2. seizures (fits)

  3. a stiff neck

  4. confusion

  5. the inability to speak

  6. uncontrollable shaking of body parts (tremor)

  7. muscle weakness or paralysis

Up to 1 in every 3 people who develop these more serious symptoms will die as a result of the infection.

In those who survive, these symptoms tend to slowly improve.

But it can take several months to make a full recovery, and up to half of those who do survive are left with permanent brain damage.

This can lead to long-term problems, such as tremors and muscle twitches, personality changes, muscle weakness, learning difficulties, and paralysis in 1 or more limbs.


How do we avoid getting it?

symptoms of japanese encephalitis
symptoms of japanese encephalitis

Picture from Pexels.

1. Use insect repellent

Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellent external with one of the active ingredients below. When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

  • DEET

  • Picaridin (known as KBR 3023 and icaridin outside the US)

  • IR3535

  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE)

  • Para-menthane-diol (PMD)

  • 2-undecanoate

Tips for babies and children

symptoms of japanese encephalitis
symptoms of japanese encephalitis
  • Dress your child in clothing that covers arms and legs.

  • Cover strollers and baby carriers with mosquito netting.

  • When using insect repellent on your child:

    • Always follow label instructions.

    • Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD) on children under 3 years old.

    • Do not apply insect repellent to a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, cuts, or irritated skin.

      • Adults: Spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to a child’s face.

Tips for everyone

  • Always follow the product label instructions.

  • Reapply insect repellent as directed.

    • Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.

    • If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second.

Natural insect repellents (repellents not registered with EPA)

  • We do not know the effectiveness of non-EPA registered insect repellents, including some natural repellents.

  • To protect yourself against diseases spread by mosquitoes, CDC and EPA recommend using an EPA-registered insect repellent.

  • Choosing an EPA-registered repellent ensures the EPA has evaluated the product for effectiveness.

2. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants

Treat clothing and gear

  • Use 0.5% permethrin to treat clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents) or buy permethrin-treated clothing and gear.

    • Permethrin is an insecticide that kills or repels mosquitoes.

    • Permethrin-treated clothing provides protection after multiple washings.

    • Read product information to find out how long the protection will last.

  • If treating items yourself, follow the product instructions.

  • Do not use permethrin products directly on the skin.

3. Take steps to control mosquitoes indoors and outdoors

  • Use screens on windows and doors. Repair holes in screens to keep mosquitoes outdoors.

  • Use air conditioning, if available.

  • Stop mosquitoes from laying eggs in or near water.

    • Once a week, empty and scrub, turn over, cover, or throw out items that hold water, such as tires, buckets, planters, toys, pools, birdbaths, flowerpots, or trash containers.

    • Check for water-holding containers both indoors and outdoors.

According to Dr. Janette Calzada (Pediatric Neurologist),

“Japanese encephalitis is the most common viral encephalitis in Asia including the Philippines, lymphatic filariasis, West Nile fever.

So aside from mosquitoes, there are really many other factors like sandflies, ticks, bugs but let me just mention them here. We have schistosomiasis.”

“So the vector-borne diseases that cause a major burden in the Philippines are the following: lymphatic filariasis, malaria, dengue, J encephalitis, chikungunya.

They can all present a fever. Lymphatic filariasis is the most common symptom in Japanese encephalitis. It is both disabling and deadly so we should try out best to avoid getting it.”

Why you should worry?

According to Dr. Janette Calzada, a pediatric neurologist, we can have Japanese encephalitis even though we are not in Japan. She also added that we have a lot of that disease here. She explained,

“As a neurologist, this is referred to me because this is the infection of the brain. Its mortality rate is also high.

It seems like a rule of thirds. There are ⅓ who will survive okay, there are ⅓ who will survive but have disabilities and then there are ⅓ who will not go well. Chikungunya knows more there.”

She also explained that there is no cure for these diseases,

“Actually, they both have the same fever. Or rashes in dengue japanese encephalitis and chikungunya there is no cure the medicine is just supportive.

Let me just say something about zika(chikungunya)virus, you can feel nothing or a mild infection. But is very dangerous to a pregnant woman.

It can really affect the microcephalic fetus, the brain does not grow. They can grow up with disabilities. It is also really good to avoid that zika virus.”

What can you do when you get it?

The best way to prevent Japanese encephalitis is to be vaccinated against the infection before you visit a part of the world where there’s a risk of catching it.

The risk is greater if you’re planning to visit rural areas or go hiking or camping.

The vaccine, which is usually only available privately, gives protection against Japanese encephalitis in more than 9 out of 10 people who receive it.

symptoms of japanese encephalitis
symptoms of japanese encephalitis

Larawan mula sa Hand photo created by master1305 –

Even if you have been vaccinated, you should still take precautions to reduce your risk of being bitten by an infected mosquito, such as:

  • sleeping in rooms with close-fitting gauze over the windows and doors – if you’re sleeping outside, use a mosquito net that’s been impregnated with insecticide

  • covering up with long-sleeved tops, trousers, and socks

  • applying a good-quality insect repellent to exposed areas of skin

There is no treatment or cure for Japanese encephalitis.

Once a person has the disease, treatment can only relieve the symptoms. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses, and effective anti-viral drugs are available.

Prevention is the best form of treatment for Japanese encephalitis.

You should get immediate medical advice if you have any of the symptoms of Japanese encephalitis and you have recently visited, or are still in, an area where the infection is found.



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The post Parent’s Guide: 7 things you need to know about this deadly disease caused by mosquitoes appeared first on theAsianparent Philippines: Your Guide to Pregnancy, Baby & Raising Kids.

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