KUCHING: The Ministry of Health confirmed today that there was a positive Japanese encephalitis (JE) case in Kota Samarahan, Sarawak but downplayed it saying the state health department had matters under control and had taken proactive measures to contain its spread.
The victim, a 7 year-old boy from Taman Sentoria in Jalan Stakan, was tested positive for the JE virus on June 25 when he was warded into the Sarawak general hospital (SGH) for “fever, headache and severe mood changes”.
The boy has since recovered and was discharged on June 5. He has also returned to school.
News of the JE case went viral on social media yesterday after a school headmaster in Samarahan division posted a letter from the Samarahan divisional health office onto one of his What’sApp group chat, according to an online news portal yesterday.
The June 4 letter from the Samarahan division health officer Dr Nur Fatihah Oh Abdullah stated the 7 year-old boy was tested positive for the JE virus on June 23 when explaining why the headmaster’s co-operation was needed in the department’s vaccination campaign in the school.
Since the case was detected, the Samarahan health office had deployed teams to vaccinate children under the age of 15 within a 2km radius of Taman Sentoria to contain a possible spread.
Health teams have gone to all primary schools, nurseries and kindergartens within the declared “red zone” vaccinating those who have missed their vaccinations or had not completed the dosage.
They also went to three residential areas – Taman Stakan Waja, Stakan Perdana and Stakan Jaya – and two villages – Kpg Pengkalan Kuap and Kuap Cina.
Anti-larvicidal and foggings were also conducted in the residential areas and schools.
There is a pig farm near to Taman Sentoria but it was more than a kilometre away and was separated by a thick forest which led to health official dismissing the farm as a source of the boy’s sickness.
Domestic pigs and wild birds are reservoirs of the virus and transmission to humans are rare.
JE is endemic in Malaysia and especially so in Sarawak.
In the six months of this year, there have been three JE cases reported.
It was a sharp drop from the high 30s in the years prior to 2001 when the state introduced compulsory JE vaccination to all new borns.
The health ministry said in the 10 years since then, only four cases were reported and that was in 2010.
It also stated that JE virus could not be spread from human to human. It is only spread by the Culex mosquito from an infected animal, normally pigs.
JE virus also lives in wild birds and horses.
As Sarawak is recovering from the rabies outbreak in Serian, new of the “JE outbreak” had people on the edge.
Two siblings – a 6 year-old girl and her 4 year-old brother – had died last Tuesday after they were bitten by rabid dogs late last month.
They were taken off life support system after doctors explained to their parents that their children are already brain dead.
Another 7 year-old is still on life support in the intensive care unit (ICU) of the SGH.-dayakdaily.com