OUR dear readers, mostly mothers and grandmothers have continuously been texting and even calling, out of worry, fear and anxiety about the many viral diseases in our midst lately.
And in fairness, it is not out of paranoia but for good reasons. Rainy season is dengue season, and with the news about Japanese encephalitis going around, it is easy to understand the concerns of parents especially mothers.
The core of all those calls is focused on how similar and how different one is from the other and of course the bottom line is how se bybrious and even deadly one is. Similarities first- dengue, Zika and Japanese encephalitis are all viral diseases, but of different viral specie. All of them are vector-brorne meaning to say, transmitted by an arthropod or an insect, in short by a mosquito. Dengue is transmitted by Aedes aegypti and lately by Aedes albopictus, Zika is by Aedes aegypti too while the Japanes e encephalitis virus is transmitted by the Culex mosquito. At this juncture, it is well to emphasize that while it is true that malaria is transmitted by a mmosquito- Anopheles flavirostris, the causative organism is not a virus but a protozoa, Plasmodium. The anopheline female mosquito bites at night while the Aedes bites at dusk and dawn while the Culex bites all day, all night.
All of them- dengue, Zika, Japanese encephalitis - start with a fever. With dengue with us all these years, we are now fully aware of its deadly complication, a sudden drop in platelet count leading to severe hemorrhage or bleeding.
Zika on a pregnant woman delivers a child whose deformed heads resemble a truncated pyramid,and in adults especially the male, probably sterility. The Japanese encephalitis is seen more in infants and young chldren, at least for the moment because when it was discovered in 1924, it affected US military men stationed in the Far East. Signs and symptoms are referable to the nervous system-delirium, confusion, seizures, convulsions,and coma
Treatment is mainly symptomatic and supportive for dengue; platelet transfusion in severe cases. Dengvaxia or dengue vaccine has been available lately; no vaccine for Zika although pharmaceutical firms have been in a frenzied race to develop one. Anti-virals like acyclovir is part and parcel of the management of Japanese encephalitis; there is a vaccine with a hefty price intended for infants 9 months old up to five years old. Of course, the government is trying its best to make the vaccine available soon at more affordable prices.
Meanwhile, the public can do much to prevent the spread of these dreaded viral diseases. By constantly maintaining a clean environment, we deprive these mosquitoes their breeding places thus we break their life cycle. And of course, sensible practical protective clothings, boost your immune system, balanced diet, fruits and your veggies.
Published in the SunStar Baguio newspaper on September 23, 2017.
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