Under mysterious threat
About 100 children in Odisha's tribal district of Malkangiri have died of viral encephalitis in the past two months. Is the state emerging as another hotbed of acute encephalitis syndrome?
ODISHA IS emerging as another hotbed of viral encephalitis, a disease that causes sudden deaths in children or leaves them in a state of delirium forever. Data with the Directorate of National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (nvbdcp), Delhi, shows that 748 children in Odisha suffered from acute encephalitis syndrome (aes) between September and October this year; 70 of them succumbed to it. At least 121 children contracted a severe form of aes, known as Japanese Encephalitis (JE).
The situation is particularly grave in the tribal district of Malkangiri, where the disease had claimed the lives of 100-odd children till the magazine went to press on November 7.
Such high number of aes cases just in two months has left health experts in the state perplexed. “Unlike several other states, aes is not endemic to Odisha,” says Santanu Kumar Kar, former director of the Regional Medical Research Centre (rmrc), Bhubaneswar. “But the disease is fast gaining a foothold in the state,” he adds.
aes was first reported from Rourkela in Sundargarh district in 1989. Between 1992 and 1995, researchers have documented sporadic cases of JE among hospitalised children in Keonjhar, Mayurbhanj, Jajpur and Malkangiri. There was no record of aes in the state in between these years, says Kar. But since 2012, Malkangiri has been consistently reporting aes outbreaks. According to the state’s Department of Health and Family Welfare, 38 children died of the disease in 2012, five in 2013 and 11 in 2014. Although there were no reports of deaths in 2015, the situation is alarming this year. “We are taking all steps to contain the deaths, but patients are dying within hours of reaching hospital,” says Kailash Chandra Dash, director of Health Services.
On September 9, Vikram and Bapi Podiami of Koimetla village in Kalimela block were admitted to the Malkangiri District Headquarters Hospital. The