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Sunday 19 January 2020

Japanese encephalitis outbreak in Odisha; Centre assures support

New Delhi: After the National Human Rights Commission on Tuesday issued a notice to the Odisha government on the Japanese encephalitis (JE) outbreak in its Malkangiri district that claimed the lives of three children aged between 2 and 3 years, raising the death toll to 30 within a month, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare JP Nadda has assured all support to the State to manage the cases. He has directed the officials from the Ministry to monitor the situation closely.

सिर्फ़ NEWS wishes to reiterate that it is an outbreak as of now; calling it an epidemic, as some media reports have done, would be an exaggeration. The difference between an outbreak and an epidemic is explained here.

“We are closely monitoring the situation. We are in constant touch with the State government and will provide all support to ensure that quality treatment is done and deaths are prevented,” the Health Minister said in a statement.

On the directions of the Health Minister, secretary CK Mishra has spoken to the principal health secretary of Odisha. The former was informed that 2 teams from the State have visited the endemic area for situation analysis. Additionally, the State health minister and principal secretary, Odisha, are at Malkangiri to review the JE situation and the measures taken to contain it.

Apart from this, an 8-member joint clinical team under the leadership of the director of public health and additional director are taking stock of the situation. Various initiatives for vector control, clinical case management, surveillance and awareness activities have been undertaken.

The principal secretary of the State has said that the situation is under control with adequate steps taken to contain the disease.

The deaths have occurred in three blocks of Malkangiri. Six others suffering from the disease have been admitted to District Headquarters Hospital. Of the 33 positive cases reported till Sunday evening, 25 children have died.

A scene from a site in Malkangiri that has witnessed the outbreak of JE (Photo: The Hindu]
A scene from a site in Malkangiri that has witnessed the outbreak of JE [Photo: The Hindu]
Reviewing the situation, Odisha Health Minister Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak said, “It has been decided to form village level committees by the sarpanches and to make villagers aware of the JE virus.” The committee, he informed, would visit every household in the area to ensure that indoor residual spray is done everywhere and the villagers keep the surroundings clean.

An enveloped virus of the genus flavivirus, closely related to the West Nile virus and the St Louis encephalitis virus, is what the JE virus is. A majority of occurrences of the disease show no symptoms while some patients show severe rigours, fever, headache and malaise at the onset of the ailment. The mortality is higher among children.

Unfortunately, no specific treatment can cure JE. A health centre merely installs mechanisms to assist a patient’s feeding and breathing while helping him to cope with seizures. Mannitol is administered to manage intracranial pressure.

JE does not spread with human-to-human contact. It can spread through mosquito bites. Mercifully, if a patient recovers, he develops a lifelong immunity against the disease.

Some Indian microbiologists have identified a monocyte and macrophage receptor, CLEC5A, in cases of severe inflammation when the disease affects the brain. This study of messenger RNA molecules has led to a belief among the scientists concerned that this is a kind of neuroinflammation for which some therapy can be developed in the future.

Prevention from JE is, however, possible. People can be vaccinated against the disease.

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