The first case of Japanese Encephalitis in the city this year, detected in a ten-month-old baby, has put the health department on high alert. This is the second such case in the state. The infant, who hails from Kondhwa, is in a stable condition and has been admitted to a private hospital in the area, said Dr Kalpana Baliwant, in-charge of the Insect Control Cell at the Pune Municipal Corporation.
The National Institute of Virology (NIV) has confirmed that the serum sample has tested positive for Japanese Encephalitis, a flavivirus related to dengue, which is spread by mosquitoes and primarily affects children.
However, Dr Pradip Awate, state surveillance officer, said, “These are sporadic cases and our surveillance network has been able to pick up the cases. The first one was from Raigad district and the second case this year is from Pune”.
The virus that causes JE is transmitted by the culex species of mosquitoes, which breed in flooded rice fields as well as in water-logged areas of urban regions. The disease has assumed epidemic proportions in pockets of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Assam and West Bengal, with sporadic cases reported from Maharashtra.
According to Awate, the problem-prone areas in Maharashtra are Amravati, Wardha, Yavatmal, Gadchiroli, Chandrapur, Nagpur, Bhandara and Gondia. Last year, 12 cases of JE, and one death due to the disease, were reported from the state; two of the cases were from Pune.
As many as 100 houses around the society at Kondhwa have been surveyed for the culex mosquito, said Baliwant. “We conducted the container surveillance for the last four days and have not been able to find the mosquito. The parents had taken the baby to Mumbai 10 days ago, and it’s likely that the infection was picked up from there,” she said.
Awate said field officers from the state entomology section had carried out their own survey. “We are waiting for the report but in all probability, it is a sporadic case. Most JE virus infections are mild or without apparent symptoms. However, one in 250 infections result in severe clinical illness, according to the World Health Organisation. JE is a serious virus infection resulting in the inflammation of the brain. The disease is characterised by the onset of high fever, headache, neck stiffness, coma, seizures and spastic paralysis…,” he said.
This year, 111 JE virus cases and 20 deaths have been reported from across the country. A majority of the cases are from UP, Bihar, West Bengal, Assam and Tamil Nadu. Last year, there were 1,676 cases and 283 deaths in the country, according to the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme.
Meanwhile, PMC officials have urged local residents to take preventive measures and ensure there are no mosquito breeding sites nearby. “While carrying out the container survey… PMC officials found the dengue causing Aedes Aegypti mosquito breeding site at a swimming pool in the same society. We have slapped a fine against them,” said Baliwant.