Four-year-old Chandrika Muduli’s chest convulsed violently even as a cylinder pumped oxygen into her body through the nasal cannula. After being taken to the Basalguda village anganwadi Tuesday, she was rushed to the Malkangiri district headquarters hospital, where the lone paediatric doctor put her under watch for suspected encephalitis. She died Wednesday evening.
Two other suspected encephalitis deaths — Sarita Madkami (2) and Sweety Madkami (2) — were reported Wednesday, taking the death toll to 19 children since September 9. The deaths have been reported from Manasa, Goreiguda, Baliapari, Koimetla, Sangel, Anlaguda, Palkonda, Sindhiguda, Siadimal, Chitapari, Golaguda and Kopeguda villages under Malkangiri Sadar, Kalimela, Korukunda, Podia and Kudumuluguma blocks.
All deceased children were aged between two and eight years, with blood and cerebral fluid samples confirming three deaths as caused by Japanese Encephalitis. The results for other samples are still awaited, though symptoms clearly indicated encephalitis.
“This is the first time Japanese Encephalitis has been confirmed in the district. So we are collecting more samples from villages in the periphery,” said Malkangiri Chief Medical Officer Uday Shankar Mishra.
With just one paediatric specialist in the entire district and less than half the sanctioned strength of doctors, the latest epidemic has posed a huge challenge to the health establishment here.
“The problem is there is no particular course of treatment for encephalitis. All that we are giving is supportive treatment. We are hoping that the children may just survive,” Mishra said.
In the paediatric ward, Malati Alba, a daily labourer from Tekguda village in Korkunda block, said: “My daughter Sushmita died here last Friday. The day my daughter died, my son (Siba, 5) had high fever.”
Health officials said the main reason of deaths due to JE and AES in Malkangiri villages was due to rearing of pigs by villagers. “The tribals live close to pig and cattle sheds. The outbreak of AES and JE starts during post-monsoon period when the density of the Culex Vishnui mosquitoes increases. As the pigs are carriers of the virus the villagers are at greater risk,” said District Vector Disease Consultant Ajit Dalai.
He said medical relief centres have been set up in the affected villages and measures, including fogging, for vector control and larvicidal application are being done.
Farmer Ganga Madkami, whose daughter Sweety died Wednesday, said there were 10 or 12 families in his village Sudhiguda who reared pigs.
Officials said from next financial year, the vaccine for JE is likely to be administered to the children.