BHUBANESWAR: It may sound surprising but mass vaccination will not be able to put a check on rising child deaths in Malkangiri district. The vaccination, which is likely to be started from first week of December, is to prevent only the vector-borne Japanese Encephalitis (JE) and will have no impact on the soaring Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) cases.
It is not JE but the deadly AES which has claimed more lives in the tribal dominated district. Unfortunately, neither any vaccine nor medicine is available for AES which is a group of clinical neurologic manifestation caused by wide range of viruses, bacteria, fungus and parasites.
So far, of 85 deaths registered in Malkangiri, JE accounts for only 30 while 55 children have died of AES in the last 61 days. The reports indicated that of total 313 cases, 161 children have been diagnosed with AES and the rest with JE. Sources said 33 children, mostly affected with AES, are undergoing treatment at the district headquarters hospital.
On the other hand, non availability of vaccine and medicine for AES, the major cause of child deaths, has put the health administration in a fix.
Director of Health Services Dr Kailash Chandra Dash admitted that spurt in AES cases is a global concern. ''There are many AES causing viruses for which no vaccine or medicine is available. Medicine for only herpes virus is available and several affected children in Malkangiri have been treated for the disease,'' he said.
In many cases, children affected with AES suffer from brain aspiration and edema which develops due to an inflammatory reaction. Both are life threatening and if such cases are not treated early and properly, the chance of survival of the patient is remote.
''That's why we are alerting people to be cautious. Early detection and treatment are two possible methods to put a check on it. Since there is no particular medicine for the disease, we are adopting symptomatic treatment with supportive ventilator and regular monitoring of glucose level of patients,'' Dash said.
The health officials, however, claimed that JE vaccine is also not foolproof as it fails to provide 100 per cent protection. The States which were covered under the vaccine in the last few years have achieved 60 to 70 per cent results. ''We have no other option but to rely on it and focus on treatment,'' they said.
Meanwhile, a four-member team of experts supervised by renowned clinical virologist Prof Jacob John is visiting affected areas in Malkangiri to ascertain the causes of encephalitis outbreak.