MYANMAR : Health officials are fighting back against a deadly outbreak of Japanese encephalitis, which has killed 19 people, including four children, since January. The Department of Public Health has launched a program to vaccinate 40,000 people in the hardest-hit locations.
Because of the high price of the vaccine, the department is focusing on Rakhine and northern Shan states, where four children died within a month.
Dr Aung Kyaw Moe, assistant director of the program, told The Myanmar Times yesterday that health workers would concentrate on 10 townships in the two states that had suffered the highest rate of fatalities.
“We have vaccine only for 40,000 people, so we’ll go first to northern Shan State, which has suffered the highest death rate, and then to Rakhine State in September or October. We’ve also asked UNICEF to help since end of 2014. We will be able to vaccinate more people when we get enough funds for more vaccine,” he said.
The disease is also found in Ayeyarwady, Yangon and Bago regions and Kayin and Mon states.
In all, 173 people have been diagnosed with the disease.
“Two children died within eight months in Yangon, but there are no other cases now in Yangon Region,” said regional chief medical officer Dr Win Lwin.
The vaccination costs K35,000 for private patients at Yangon Hospital.
Japanese encephalitis occurs mainly in rural parts of Asia. It is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito and does not spread from person to person. Most infected people show no symptoms, but others might complain of a mild fever and headache, or suffer a more serious fever, neck stiffness, seizures and coma. About one in four victims dies, and survivors may be left with permanent disability. Unborn children are at particular risk.