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Odisha: more than 80 kids dead after Encephalitis outbreak

“The situation has remained grim even as the district administration has taken all possible measures to check the outbreak. The death toll has risen in last three-four days. "
Odisha

The vector-borne disease claimed lives of three more kids in the district today rising the toll of dead in Malkangiri district of Odisha to 87.

The unabated Encephalitis continues to be the reason of death of kids since past 56 days in the 505 villages of Malkangiri district, Odisha sun times reported. It is home to nearly 6.2 lakh people, mostly from the Scheduled Castes and tribes like Bondas, Koyas, Porajas and Didayis.

In a report of Odisha tv, it informed that Officer on Special Duty (OSD) Nruparaj Sahoo, who is currently in Malkangiri to monitor the government works to prevent the outbreak of the disease, said the situation has not improved as per the expectation.

“The situation has remained grim even as the district administration has taken all possible measures to check the outbreak. The death toll has risen in last three-four days. The Collector is touch with the expert team, which will visit the district after November 3. More investigation will be carried out,” Sahoo said.

Reportedly, a six-member team, headed by the public health director, conducted door-to-door disease surveillance, fogging and other preventive measures.

The media reports cite official sources as saying that, discussions with national-level experts are being held for control measures and vaccination drives will be conducted in Malkangiri in the last week of December. Also, Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan is scheduled to visit Malkangiri on Friday to take stock of the situation.

According to the media reports, a 10-year-old boy from Odisha wrote to Prime Minister seeking help from the outbreak of Japanese Encephalitis.

Unmesh Madhi, a fourth standard student of Polkanda Primary School in Malkangiri wrote

“Save our lives. Many of my friends have died of Japanese fever. You are roaming around the globe. Cannot you come over to our village and see how children are dying here.”

The deadly disease originates from pigs and spreads to humans, mostly children, through mosquitoes. Symptoms of Japanese Encephalitis (JE) include fever, nausea and fatigue. As the tribal people extensively rear pigs, they are abundantly available in the area, they have been instructed to isolate pigs at least 3 km from villages and cull infected pigs.

“All children in the district will be vaccinated against JE on December 1,” Odisha director of health services Dr Chittaranjan Nayak said to a media house. “The process of procuring the vaccines from the Centre, training the staff and the logistical assessment has begun,” he added.

It is to be noted that a single shot protects children for up to a year against the JE strain prevalent in India. While JE is a viral infection spread by mosquitoes, Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) can be caused by a range of viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites, chemicals and toxins. Encephalitis is marked by inflammation of the brain’s membrane that causes rapidly rising fever, headache, stiffness of the neck, disorientation, coma, seizures, spastic paralysis and even death.

Odisha first reported encephalitis cases in 2015, when 660 AES cases and 33 JE cases were detected. There were four deaths, two from each. “Children in Malkangiri have never been vaccinated against JE because there were no cases till now,” Dr Nayak said.

It has been reported that the district administration has set up initiatives and awareness campaigns in the villages, but it hasn’t helped much as the killer disease alarmingly spread across all seven blocks of the district. It is to be noted that the Malkangiri district has had a known history of recurring spells of Japanese Encephalitis in the past. As the death toll rises, knee jerk reactions from the government haven’t been able to contain the epidemic.

Dr Kalyani Sarkar, Additional District Medical Officer, Malkangiri, told NDTV they are targeting the epidemic in three ways – “Control the breeding of mosquitoes, increase immunity in children and isolate the carriers – pigs.”

Till October 2, 2016, India reported 7,443 AES cases and 840 deaths, while JE has infected another 974 people and killed 167. Of these, 456 AES and 16 JE cases were from Odisha.

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