India minister vows to eradicate deadly encephalitis

June 10, 2014

India's new health minister on Tuesday ordered 'extraordinary steps' to end the deadly disease encephalitis, after it claimed the lives of 44 children in the country in the past fortnight.

Hundreds of people across India die each year from the virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes from pigs to humans, with malnourished children particularly vulnerable.

"I am extremely distressed at the runaway conquest of and it is high time extraordinary steps were taken to stymie it," health minister Harsh Vardhan said in a statement.

Vardhan added that he ordered his ministry to go on "overdrive ... and have a total immunisation campaign for encephalitis in the affected districts" over June 22-23.

He said that the virus, which normally affects children aged below 15, killed 44 children in Bihar state in the past two weeks and claimed 500-600 people each year in Uttar Pradesh alone.

Harsh Vardhan, a doctor praised for his work on eradicating polio in India, was sworn in as in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet last month after his right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party won the clearest mandate for 30 years.

Vardhan aims to make his encephalitis campaign as successful as his polio one, which led to India's 1.2 billion population becoming a certified polio-free nation in March after health volunteers repeatedly vaccinated children countrywide.

The ministry will aim to have dedicated beds for encephalitis patients in all hospitals in affected districts and has already provided 100 ventilator machines in the hardest-hit Gorakhpur district in Uttar Pradesh state.

While Japanese encephalitis is responsible for about 10 percent of deaths, the more fatal Acute Encephalitis Syndrome is harder to tackle as its causes remain mostly unknown, the statement said.

Symptoms include headaches, seizures and fever and health experts say 70 million nationwide are at risk.

The virus is present in 19 Indian states, including the most populous ones of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Explore further: Encephalitis kills at least 430 in India

Related Stories

Encephalitis kills at least 430 in India

October 15, 2011
At least 430 people, mainly children, have died from an outbreak of encephalitis in a deeply neglected region of the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, officials said on Saturday.

India launches indigenous vaccine for Japanese encephalitis

October 4, 2013
India on Friday launched an indigenous vaccine against Japanese encephalitis as part of a national programme to fight the virus.

Officials say India close to wiping out polio

October 24, 2011
(AP) -- Health officials say there has not been a case of polio in India for nine months, the longest the country has ever been polio free.

Deadly year for encephalitis feared in India

June 18, 2013
A mosquito-borne disease that preys on the young and malnourished is sweeping across poverty-riven northern India again this monsoon season, with officials worried it could be the deadliest outbreak in nearly a decade.

Israel takes polio vaccination campaign nationwide (Update)

August 11, 2013
Israel took its polio vaccination campaign nationwide on Sunday, saying a two-week vaccination effort in the south was not enough to curb the threat of an outbreak of the virus.

Recommended for you

Ambitious global virome project could mark end of pandemic era

February 23, 2018
Rather than wait for viruses like Ebola, SARS and Zika to become outbreaks that force the world to react, a new global initiative seeks to proactively identify, prepare for and stop viral threats before they become pandemics.

Forecasting antibiotic resistance with a 'weather map' of local data

February 23, 2018
The resistance that infectious microbes have to antibiotics makes it difficult for physicians to confidently select the right drug to treat an infection. And that resistance is dynamic: It changes from year to year and varies ...

Study reveals how kidney disease happens

February 22, 2018
Monash researchers have solved a mystery, revealing how certain immune cells work together to instigate autoimmune kidney disease.

Scientists gain new insight on how antibodies interact with widespread respiratory virus

February 22, 2018
Scientists have found and characterized the activity of four antibodies produced by the human immune system that target an important protein found in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), according to new research published ...

Past encounters with the flu shape vaccine response

February 20, 2018
New research on why the influenza vaccine was only modestly effective in recent years shows that immune history with the flu influences a person's response to the vaccine.

Building better tiny kidneys to test drugs and help people avoid dialysis

February 16, 2018
A free online kidney atlas built by USC researchers empowers stem cell scientists everywhere to generate more human-like tiny kidneys for testing new drugs and creating renal replacement therapies.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.