The health authority issued a Japanese encephalitis alert, after a large number of mosquitos carrying the virus responsible were detected. According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), the warning came after it collected 1,037 culex tritaeniorhynchus ― the mosquito species that transmits the disease ― per day, or 71.2 percent of mosquito samples it collected in South Gyeongsang province.
The alert is issued when the species takes up 50 percent of total mosquito samples on average or when the number exceeds 500. The KCDC collects mosquito samples twice a week. Despite the growing number, no cases of Japanese encephalitis have been reported so far. Japanese encephalitis is passed on through the bite of the culex tritaeniorhynchus species, which is small and dark brown with no distinctive patterns on its body. However, not all culex tritaeniorhynchus carry the virus, the health authority said.
More than 90 percent of people infected with the disease suffer from mild fever or show no apparent symptoms but some infections result in high fever, vomiting and seizures, and could develop into acute encephalitis which can even cause swelling around the brain and a coma. About 20 percent to 30 percent of people with acute encephalitis die.
The health authorities advised people to get vaccinated, as there is no cure for the disease. Children under 12 years old can get vaccinated for free at public health centers. To prevent mosquito bites, people planning outdoor activities are advised to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants to cover their skin, and avoid using cosmetics with a strong scent. Mosquito repellant and screens for tents are also recommended.