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

Two Group A Streptococcus genes linked to 'flesh-eating' bacterial infections

September 22, 2017
Group A Streptococcus bacteria cause a variety of illnesses that range from mild nuisances like strep throat to life-threatening conditions including pneumonia, toxic shock syndrome and the flesh-eating disease formally known ...

Ecosystem approach makes urinary tract infection more treatable

September 22, 2017
The biological term 'ecosystem' is not usually associated with urinary tract infections, but this should change according to Wageningen scientists.

Residents: Frontline defenders against antibiotic resistance?

September 22, 2017
Antibiotic resistance continues to grow around the world, with sometimes disastrous results. Some strains of bacteria no longer respond to any currently available antibiotic, making death by infections that were once easily ...

Individualized diets for irritable bowel syndrome better than placebo

September 21, 2017
Patients with irritable bowel syndrome who follow individualized diets based on food sensitivity testing experience fewer symptoms, say Yale researchers. Their study is among the first to provide scientific evidence for this ...

Superbug's spread to Vietnam threatens malaria control

September 21, 2017
A highly drug resistant malaria 'superbug' from western Cambodia is now present in southern Vietnam, leading to alarming failure rates for dihydroartemisinin (DHA)-piperaquine—Vietnam's national first-line malaria treatment, ...

Investigators may unlock mystery of how staph cells dodge the body's immune system

September 21, 2017
For years, medical investigators have tried and failed to develop vaccines for a type of staph bacteria associated with the deadly superbug MRSA. But a new study by Cedars-Sinai investigators shows how staph cells evade the ...

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.