Japanese encephalitis claimed 963 lives in India

April 26th, 2008 - 10:09 am ICT by admin  

By Prashant K. Nanda
New Delhi, April 26 (IANS) With no specific anti-viral drug available to contain Japanese encephalitis (JE) in India, the mosquito-borne disease claimed 963 lives in 2007 - an increase of nearly 45 percent over the previous year. According to data compiled by the ministry of health and family welfare, states like Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Bihar, Assam, Manipur, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are the main states where the incidence of JE is high.

“Though we are distributing drugs and creating awareness among people, especially in the monsoon, there is no specific anti-viral drug for the treatment of JE,” said a ministry official.

“We have made considerable progress, but mosquitoes still pose a major threat to lives in the country, especially in rural areas. Malaria, dengue, chikungunya and JE are being spread by mosquitoes,” the official told IANS.

JE is primarily associated with the monsoon and post-monsoon season. The occurrence of the disease is determined by factors like rainfall, temperature and humidity.

The disease has an incubation period of 5 to 15 days. Fever, headache and depression are some of the non-specific symptoms of this disease. During the acute encephalitic stage, patients experience neck rigidity.

The ministry said India reported 4,022 cases in 2007 as against 2,842 in 2006. The number of fatalities was 963 deaths in 2007 as against 658 the previous year.

Of the total in 2007, Uttar Pradesh alone accounted for 645 followed by Bihar at 164 and Assam at 133. Other states that reported casualties include Haryana, Karnataka and West Bengal.

The ministry data showedthat of the 4,022 people infected by the disease, Uttar Pradesh reported 3,024, Assam 424 and Bihar 336, Manipur 65 and Tamil Nadu 37. While Haryana and Karnataka reported 32 cases each, Andhra Pradseh reported 22 cases of JE during 2007.

The authorities said as Uttar Pradesh is the most vulnerable state for this disease, the central government has set up a vector-borne disease surveillance unit at the Gorakhpur medical college to strengthen monitoring.

Now both the state government and the central government have “intensified efforts in 11 districts in and around Gorakhpur”, the official added. The disease derives its name from Japan, where the first case was detected in the 1870s and then spread across Asia.

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