Hong Kong confirms case of Japanese encephalitis

The Hong Kong Department of Health's Centre for Health Protection said on Monday that it is investigating a confirmed case of Japanese encephalitis in a five-year-old boy currently in serious condition.

The patient developed fever and shortness of breath starting on October 25 and was admitted to a private hospital for high fever and convulsions on October 29. The patient's cerebrospinal fluid sample tested positive for antibodies against JE, a viral disease transmitted by infected mosquitoes. The child previously traveled to Tokyo between October 11 and 14.

Aside from the recent case, four JE cases were reported to the CHP in 2013.

Mosquitoes become infected with JE by feeding on wild birds and pigs infected with the JE virus. The mosquitoes then transfer the virus to humans and animals during the feeding process.

While most JE virus infections are mild without apparent symptoms other than headache and fever, some severe infections can occur with symptoms such as high fever, headache, impaired mental state, nick stiffness, tremors, convulsions, coma and paralysis.

The CHP recommends that members of the public, particularly those in rural areas, wear long-sleeved clothes and pants, wear effective insect repellents containing DEET and use mosquito screens or nets in non air-conditioned rooms. Travelers to endemic areas of JE in mainland and Southeast Asia should take the same precautions and consider vaccination against JE at least 10 days before departure.