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Odisha: 100 children dead, child's SOS to PM goes unheard

  • Over 100 children have died of Japanese Encephalitis in Odisha
  • Karnataka, AP, Kerala, West Bengal also have concentration Japanese Encephalitis virus
  • Here’s what you need to know about Japanese Encephalitis
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Few days ago a 10-year old boy from Odisha made a plea to the country’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. His letter read: “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.”



When he wrote the letter the death toll in Odisha due to this disease was at 73. Today, the death toll has touched crossed the 100 mark. Is it something only Odisha needs to be worried about? No. According to the findings of the Ministry of the Health and Family Welfare, states like Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Kerala also have been affected in the past.



Here are some facts about Japanese Encephalitis that you should know:



1. What is Japanese encephalitis virus?



Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) is a flavivirus related to dengue, yellow fever and West Nile viruses, and is spread by mosquitoes.



2. How is this virus transmitted?



JEV is transmitted to humans through bites from infected mosquitoes of the Culexspecies (mainly Culex tritaeniorhynchus). The virus exists can be transmitted from mosquitoes, pigs and/or water birds. The disease is predominantly found in rural and periurban settings, where humans live in closer proximity to these animals. It takes 5 to 15 days after the bite of an infected mosquito to develop symptoms.



3. What are the symptoms?



Initially the virus infections present itself in a mild manner. Only 1 in 250 cases will develop serious complications. The difficult part of this disease is that clinically it is difficult to differentiate between JE and other viral encephalitis.  The JE virus infection presents classical symptoms similar to any other virus causing encephalitis. However, anyone with the virus may find a rapid onset of high fever, headache, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, seizures, spastic paralysis and when all help fails -ultimately death.


4.What are its after-effects ?



In those who survive, these symptoms tend to slowly improve. Only some make full recovery, and up to half of those who do survive are left with permanent brain damage. This can lead to long-term problems such as tremors and muscle twitches, personality changes, muscle weakness, learning difficulties and paralysis in one or more limbs.



5.Is it contagious?


No. It CANNOT transmitted from person-to-person. It is not transferrable by touching or kissing a person who contains the virus.


6.Who are at risk from the JEV virus?


Residents of rural areas in endemic locations, active duty military deployed to endemic areas, and expatriates who visit rural areas. Japanese encephalitis does not usually occur in urban areas.


7.How is it tested?



To confirm JEV infection and to rule out other causes of encephalitis it requires a laboratory testing of serum or, preferentially, cerebrospinal fluid.



8.Is there a permanent cure for JEV?



There is no cure for the disease. Treatment is focused on relieving severe clinical signs and supporting the patient to overcome the infection. At present there is aa vaccine which is being manufactured at the Central Research Institute, Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh. It is a mouse brain killed vaccine and 3 doses are required to produce primary immunisation. Two doses are administered sub-cutaneously within a gap of 7-14 days followed by third dose any time after one month and before one year of the second dose. A booster is required after 3 years. This vaccine has limitations in huge production and so the difficulty in securing these for the affected children.



(Information source: WHO & NVBDCP )


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