WITH JAPANESE Encephalitis (JE) and Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) resulting in 87 deaths so far in Odisha’s Malkangiri district, the local administration on Thursday night admitted an eight-year-old girl, who has tested positive for JE, in the district hospital almost forcibly, even as her parents wanted her admitted to a “better” medical institution in Cuttack.
Having lost a son and a daughter to JE in the last four days, Surendra and Ramei Padiami, residents of Daniguda village, said they fear losing a third child — unless she gets “better” medical attention. “What is the guarantee that our daughter will come out alive? Please take her to better hospitals in Cuttack. I cannot see the body of our third child,” Surendra, a Koya tribal, told officials.
District Collector K Sudarshan Chakravorty, who reached Daniguda with officials Thursday evening, eventually managed to take the girl from her mother after persuasion by the sarpanch, anganwadi and ASHA workers. Officials said they had to admit her “forcibly” as any delay in treatment would endanger her life.
An expert team led by Dr Jacob John of Christian Medical College and Hospital in Vellore, meanwhile, reached Malkangiri on Friday to identify the cause of the epidemic.
District officials said that since September 9, when the first case was reported, 261 children suffering from either JE or AES have been admitted to the district headquarters hospital. Of them, 74 have died. “Of these, only 27 were confirmed cases of JE. The remaining died of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome,” Chakravorty said.
Doctors say AES is a broad-spectrum disease that may or may not be caused by a virus but normally starts with fever and has symptoms such as confusion and disorientation.
According to doctors, blood samples of 361 children tested so far, including 261 admitted to the district hospital, showed 112 children positive for JE virus.
Officials are gearing up to vaccinate more than 26 lakh children in Malkangiri, Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar and Jajpur districts against JE from December 1.
Dr Madan Mohan Pradhan, joint director of National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme, who is part of the expert team that has reached Malkangiri, said it is “baffling” that many of the 87 victims did not show symptoms of JE, such as paralysis and squinting of eyes. “A lot of tests are needed to find out what is happening,” he said.