BY A K SAHOO
Bhubaneswar, Oct. 4: In 2016, over one hundred children had died in Malkangiri allegedly due to Japanese Encephalitis, although the Odisha government attributed many of the deaths to other factors.
A lot of noise was made over the deaths and politicking over it reached the crescendo with all political parties making a beeline to visit the affected villages. Both the ruling BJD and opposition BJP and Congress and arrived in the district to console the bereaved families.
Nearly, a year has passed since the disease wrought havoc in the district. But none is sure that this mysterious disease would not visit the disease this year. And, if at all it visits, – it would not be that much devastating devouring lives of innocent children.
The recent report of four infants dying of a mystery disease in Malkangiri district in the last six days has again added to the apprehension of the area again plunging into the last year kind of situation.
This time, the death reports have come from Siadimal village, just 10 km from the district headquarters town.
Chief District Medical Officer (CDMO) Amarendra Mohanty, who led a team to Siadimal, has collected the blood samples of some of the sick children and sent them for examinations.
The sick children are down with fever and showing sign of vomiting, high temperature and respiratory stress. God forbid, no more casualties are reported and all the affected children recover at the earliest.
Around this time last year, the Japanese Encephalitis had raised its ugly head. The marauding disease continued to claim lives till December end. Doctors and experts were clueless for nearly three months to arrive at the exact reason of the spread of the disease.
It was then decided then decided to open a state-of-the art blood testing laboratory so to ensure early detection of the reason of the disease. No visible progress has been made in this regard so far.
It was also then decided to undertake massive immunization drive around this time in the district. But, it has yet remained a non-starter. Stretching of infrastructure in periphery hospitals has also not yet been done.
Villagers now fear that JE might l strike back this year also and cause massive damage. The apprehension is not totally unfounded. People recall that the disease had claimed at least 38 lives in 2012. But no drive was undertaken by the state government to prevent its recurrence. As a result, 102 children died in 2016.
Before it is too late, the state government must wake up and undertake large-scale vaccination drive to save the children, – apart from ensuring that all other infrastructures are put in place.