Four cases of suspected Chandipura virus infection were reported in Gujarat’s Dahod on Tuesday, two days after the blood samples of a five-year-old girl who died on June 30 tested positive for the virus. Of the four suspected cases, two children have already died while two others are under tertiary care, which is specialised medical care.
What is the Chandipura virus?
Named after the town in Maharashtra where the discovery was made and isolated, Chandipura virus is known to cause inflammation of the brain, progress rapidly from an influenza-like illness to coma and death.
The Chandipura Vesiculovirus (CHPV), first discovered by two virologists of the Pune-based National Institute of Virology (NIV) in 1965, predominantly infects children. The majority of infected patients are children aged below 14.
The last cases reported in Gujarat were in 2014, when four children aged between five and 14 succumbed to the virus. In 2010, 29 suspected cases were reported of which 17 children succumbed to the virus, all from Kheda, Panchmahals and Vadodara in the state.
The virus spreads mainly through the bite of sand flies, and sometimes through mosquitoes. Animal studies show that the virus affects neurons and causes neurodegeneration. Sand flies, which are found in mud and in cracks of sand houses, mostly breed during monsoon and pre-monsoon months which is when the cases are generally reported.
The likely vector (or carrier) of the virus is the female phlebotomine sandfly. The virus was detected in sandflies in Senegal, Nigeria as well as in India. In 2003, Chandipura virus was responsible for an outbreak in southern India in which 329 children developed acute encephalitis and 183 died.
Signs and symptoms
The symptoms include sudden high fever accompanied by headache, convulsions and vomiting, sometimes leading to unconsciousness. Based on the symptoms, doctors recommend a blood test. The samples are sent to NIV Pune, which confirms the presence or absence of the Chandipura virus. It takes between 10 and 15 days to get the test results.
There is no specific medicine for its treatment. However with timely detection, hospitalisation and symptomatic treatment is given to the patient, which could help save lives.
Prevention is the best method to suppress CHPV infection. According to NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information), for the containment of the disease transmitting vectors, it is essential to maintain good nutrition, health, hygiene and awareness in rural areas.
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