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Encephalitis virus a challenge for us: ICMR chief

Last Updated: Sunday, January 3, 2010 - 00:00

New Delhi: Identification of encephalitis
virus which continues to kill hundreds of children every year
and maim thousands in eastern Uttar Pradesh still remains a
challenge for scientists, the ICMR has said.

"We know that in about 15 percent cases Japanese
Encephalitis is the cause of death, but for the remaining 85
percent the reason (virus) is yet to be ascertained. It still
remains a challenge," Director General, Indian Council for
Medical Research (ICMR) V M Katoch told a news agency.

As against swine flu which claimed about 970 lives in
2009 across the country, the Encephalitis proved much more
lethal claiming 567 deaths from a small pocket of 23 affected
districts of eastern UP.

The lack of knowledge about lethal virus is proving a
hindrance for developing a vaccine or cure for the disease,
Katoch said.

Member of Parliament from Gorakhpur -- the most affected
district -- Yogi Aditya Nath said thousands of lives are being
lost every year for last three decades but the virus remains a
mystery showing apathy of government`s health machinery
towards the area.

"The toll of 567 is just for one year that too from BRD
Medical College only. Large number of deaths occurring in
villages and private hospitals are getting unnoticed and
unreported. The numbers are much higher," he said.

The Health Ministry feels the problem lies more in social
issues like hygiene in the region.

"In many cases we have found that patients had other
complications like jaundice when they were brought to
hospitals... in some the detection of encephalitis was late...
so all these scenarios have to be kept in mind while dealing
with the problem," Katoch said.

The Japanese Encephalitis virus grows in domestic pigs
which acts as reservoir for it and spreads through female
mosquitoes of culex tritaeniorhynchus, culex vishnui and culex

The infection which mainly takes place in children up to
the age of 15 years, adversely affects the nervous system of
the patient. The swelling in brain creates respiratory
problems and person succumbs to it or gets paralysed.

According to Nath, hospitals here were also ill-equipped
to deal with the disease. "The government will have to take
local bodies in sanitation and hygiene process and only
prevention of disease can improve the situation," he said.


First Published: Sunday, January 3, 2010 - 00:00

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