Bali reacts to false health scare

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DENPASAR, 12 November 2018: The Bali Hotels Association issued a rebuttal at the weekend to discredit what it called fake information on social media claiming the tourist island was threatened by a Japanese encephalitis outbreak.

An email blast to trade partners and media outlets worldwide, sent out Friday, showed a statement released by the Department of Health Bali Province concerning an April Japanese encephalitis outbreak.

It was responding initially to a news report in the Australian media that officials said referred to a single case earlier in the year.

The association said it became aware that news on the Japanese encephalitis (JE) outbreak has gone viral on social media and online news.

Bali Hotels Association received a copy of the statement from the Department of Health Bali Province regarding the outbreak, signed by the Head of The Department of Health Bali Province.

It stated that false information regarding a disease outbreak in Bali had been released on social media and online news worldwide.

Reports also appeared in the online edition of news.com.au and dailymail.co.uk with the latter headlining the report “Japanese encephalitis explodes in Bali.”

However, the department said that the fake news was based on a January 2018 statement that reported a single reported case with negative test result and no death reported.

Officials confirmed that in April, the public health authority carried out a massive island-wide JE vaccination drive targeting more than 960,000 children aged 9 months to 15 years old, the most vulnerable group to the infection that could cause brain swelling.

The drive was completed with 101.78% coverage.

“The drive also targeted a large number of children with parents who were temporary residents, or migrant workers on the island. That’s why the coverage rate is above 100%,”a public health official explained.

The association in its email to partners noted that there were ongoing preventive programmes such as regular vaccination programmes and mosquito control measures had been carried out in communities across the island.

News.com au said in a report last Friday that Australian travellers were being warned about visiting Bali and other popular tourist spots across Asia after a recent spike in a deadly mosquito-borne brain disease.

The news channel said Indonesia’s health ministry says cases of Japanese encephalitis have risen in the country.

The deadly disease can cause blindness, weakness and movement disorders. Signs of the viral brain infection include fever, headache, neck stiffness, disorientation, tremors, paralysis and convulsions, particularly in children.

It can also lead to coma or death — the current fatality rate in patients with severe cases is between 20 and 30%. Of those who survive about 30% are left with long-term neurological impairments.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control says the disease is currently widespread in Asia, with cases being recorded from India, Pakistan and Japan among other countries.

The ECDPC says there’s between 30 to 50,000 cases reported annually but it has been decreasing in recent years thanks to a widespread vaccine and changes in agricultural practices.

It’s commonly transmitted to humans through mosquitoes but can also be carried by birds, bats, cows and pigs.

According to the News.Com report the Indonesian health ministry says it is keeping close watch on the disease in Bali, North Sulawesi and Manado regions.

(Source Bali Hotels Association, newswires)

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