BHUBANESWAR: The Odisha Government has found itself on a sticky ground as the Japanese Encephalitis (JE) toll continues to climb in Malkangiri despite the Health Department sending in doctors and senior officers to the ground.
Though the Health Department asserted that the situation was under control, its officials were fighting an uphill task as more and more infected children were seeking treatment and there was no control on the menace.
With three more children falling to the deadly virus, the toll reached 42 on Sunday. Unofficial toll, however, was 44. So far, over 140 have been diagnosed with JE infection.
“Even if we say that the situation is under control on basis of the number of children seeking treatment, the critical issue is that there is no clear picture of subclinical infection in three blocks of Kalimela, Korkunda and Malkangiri. That is the reason there is no grip on the situation yet,” said reliable sources in the Department.
While the subclinical infection level is stated to be high, the Health Department is in no position to screen all the villages in affected blocks. The National Vector Borne Diseases Programme (NVBDP)’s advice not to go for vaccination during transmission is based on the logic that vaccination could be a tricky affair with unknown number of people still with infection but without any symptoms.
Vector-borne disease experts say the reason the Centre does not want to go for vaccination during transmission is because the Chinese drug manufactured by Chengdu Institute of Biological Products uses live attenuated virus. If vaccination is allowed, there is possibility that those with subclinical infection could develop full symptoms which no administration wants.
“The NVBDP’s advice that vaccination during transmission stage may backfire suits the Health Department stand because it had done precious little to avoid a recurrence and this outbreak has taken them by surprise,” sources added.
In fact, other JE vaccine available in the open market includes an indigenous drug that uses inactivated virus procured from NIV, Pune. “People who are concerned about their children are free to use a vaccine which is available in open market but only under prescription because under the current situation of panic, an artificial demand can be created which will only benefit the suppliers,” a senior officer of the Health Department said.
While the Health Department has already asked Drug Control Administration to check the vaccine available in the market but it is only a knee-jerk reaction. The major task is to contain the infection which is possible only through vector control in the face of continued showers.
Can it start vaccination after November? Insiders say the Health Department is pinning hopes on the fact that the wave of infection will end by then as the JE’s peak transmission period is from September to November.