Meningitis claims 230 lives in Northeast

February 16th, 2009 - 4:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Agartala, Feb 16 (IANS) At least 230 people have died of meningitis in the northeastern states of Tripura, Meghalaya, and Mizoram, officials said Monday.

The situation is alarming in Meghalaya and Tripura, they said.

“We have asked the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) in New Delhi to send necessary vaccine and drugs to control the disease that has assumed an epidemic proportion in the Longtharai Valley tribal areas of Dhalai district,” said Tripura health service director Satya Ranjan Debbarma.

The NICD last week asked the three northeastern states to keep a close surveillance in remote locations, especially where the outbreak of meningococcal meningitis was reported.

“Over 230 people including children and women died in the disease in Meghalaya (165 deaths), Tripura (55 deaths) and Mizoram (10 deaths) over the past one month,” a senior health official told reporters here.

Over 2,500 people, including children and women, were taken ill in the three states.

“The three northeastern states have borders with the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of south-east Bangladesh where meningococcal meningitis is spreading in an epidemic form,” said an official of the NICD.

The Tripura government has taken a slew of measures to control the disease by setting up makeshift health centres in the affected Longtharai Valley, 135 km north of the capital Agartala.

“Several medical teams is working in the affected areas round-the-clock and preventive medicines were being given to 140,000 people in the tribal dominated areas,” said R.K. Dhar, director of the family welfare and preventive medicine.

A two-member team of NICD led by joint director Jagdir Singh visited the affected East Khasi Hills and Garo Hills areas of Meghalaya and helped doctors in the region deal with the disease.

“We have enough anti-meningococcal meningitis vaccines and a number of medical teams are working round-the-clock to deal with the situation,” said Meghalaya health service director A. Kynjing.

“Like the other northeastern states, we have launched a massive public awareness campaign on the need for cleanliness as it is an airborne disease,” said Y.P. Singh, principal secretary of the Tripura government in-charge of health department.

After visiting the affected areas, R.K. Dhar, an expert on communicable diseases, said: “Meningococcal meningitis is a communicable disease that is spread through droplets of respiratory or throat secretions. The most common symptoms are stiff neck, high fever, headache and vomiting.”

“Even when the disease is diagnosed early and adequate therapy instituted, five to ten percent of the patients die typically within 24 to 48 hours of onset of symptoms,” he said.

Tripura Health Minister Tapan Chakraborty, who is also camping in the affected tribal areas for the past few days, held meetings with the village heads of 40 affected villages and asked them to help health officials and paramedics.

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