Sharks attack roughly 75 people worldwide a year, killing an average of 5. In the U.S., out of 1,300 tornadoes per year, about 60 people die. We all have a healthy fear of sharks and tornadoes. But what about mosquitoes? They kill more than 1 million people per year around the globe, claiming the prize as the world’s deadliest creature.
Today (Feb. 22) is World Encephalitis Day. One of the most common causes of encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) is from mosquito-borne illnesses. West Nile Virus, Japanese Encephalitis, St. Louis Encephalitis and Western Equine Encephalitis (among others) are all the result of these pesky flying insects that pass diseases to us as they nibble on our arms and legs. Encephalitis affects 500,000 people each year globally — 20,000 in the U.S., and kill ~20% of its victims.
Encephalitis is a brain injury that creates a chronic neurological disorder that can impact much of the body, including the respiratory, muscular, digestive and nervous systems. There is no cure. Delayed diagnosis of encephalitis can impact mortality. And even though this impacts 20,000 Americans each year, there are no standardized treatment protocols, leaving many patients to figure out their own treatment plan.
No one wore pink ribbons today. Or took an ice bucket challenge. Or even wore a “mosquito busters” shirt. Yet encephalitis can affect anyone at any time anywhere in the world. The onset can be dramatic with symptoms such as high fever, extreme headache and fatigue, hallucinations, vomiting and mental changes. And the results are often life changing … memory loss, social changes, sleep disorders (and too many more to list). More than 50% are unable to return to the workplace. Encephalitis can be due to something perceived as simple as a mosquito bite, vaccine reaction or Herpes cold sore or as traumatic as a head injury.
On the occasion of the second World Encephalitis Day, I applaud the doctors who immerse themselves into understanding this rare illness, the caregivers who improve the quality of lives affected and the survivors who push daily to keep on keeping on.
Thanks to the International Encephalitis Consortium, Encephalitis Global and the Encephalitis Society for moving the ball forward in understanding, research and awareness.
Copyright 2015 Majamo Publishing, LLC.