Japanese encephalitis continues to stalk state


IMPHAL, Oct 24: An 11 year old Class V student of Catholic School Canchipur Baby Lalrilu was sick and hospitalized at the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences(RIMS) Hospital in India’s north eastern state of Manipur on June 27 earlier this year following complain of high fever and unconsciousness.
But unfortunately Baby Lalrilu, the one and only daughter of a young Rongmei widow of Luma, 39 a resident of Langthabal Chingkhong village in Imphal West district, passed away the following day.
The family of little child including grandmother Pantiguru, 70, was not aware of the cause of the death. “We still don’t know what kind of disease had attack our grandchild”, Pantiguru said. “Otherwise she is a very neat and clean child”.
Both the family and state health officials remain clueless about the genesis of the disease until the Regional Medical Research Centre, Dibrugarh and the National Centre for Disease Control, New Delhi confirmed that her blood samples tested positive of Japanese Encephalitis. Thus the state health department’s surveillance report identified her as one of the victim of Japanese Encephalitis.
A day ahead another baby girl Fankiya, 6 year of Lilong Tureal Ahanbi village in Thoubal district also died three days after her hospitalization due to a similar symptoms of Baby Lalrilu.
Last year, Baby Fankiya’s locality had witnessed outbreak of an unknown disease. “One 12 year old girl and 28 year old boy were hospitalized too due to an unknown disease last year”, Fankiya’s father Fariduddin, 32 recalled.
Even though the victims of the epidemic were mostly young children, a visit to another victim Haobijam Mema,45 at Sawombung Wairi-Khundrakpam village in Imphal East district indicates that it does not spare adults too as Mema had a similar history behind the cause of the death.
Likewise as many as 34 persons were officially reported expired in Manipur due to similar syndrome of Japanese Encephalitis within a span one month (July-2010). Most of the victims, including the first three victims-M Sanathoi of Irengbam village, Salam Naocha of Loktak Project both from Bishnupur district and Bharat of Kangpokpi under Senapati district, lives in the periphery of the rice fields.
State Malaria Office however claimed that the actual death toll because of the Japanese Encephalitis epidemic was just 9 while around 60 suspects were given symptomatic treatment though Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) epidemic had claimed 15 lives during the outbreak.
Even if the disease was cyclical in it’s appearance, no Japanese Encephalitis cases were reported in 2005 and 2006. But state has started to record a single case in 2007 followed by 4 other suspected cases in 2008. Last year had around 64 suspected cases, but there’s no report of any casualty due to the epidemic unlike the current the year.
The overall situation of the state has shown a substantial increase in total malaria cases from 708 to 1069 (51 percent) in 2009 as compared with the same period in 2008. Interestingly in order to avoid Malaria, the state malaria office has distributed 3,09,718 bed nets treated with insecticides last year.
But it was quite surprise for a common man to hear that how the dreaded epidemic appeared all of a sudden in a traditionally pleasant place like Manipur. “No! Manipur is no more a pleasant or cold place anymore”, Kh Meghachandra, officer in charge of Meteorological (MET) Office, Imphal said. “It would be interesting if one observes the rainfall pattern of the state for the last few years”.
Unlike the last decade, summer is refusing to end in Manipur with MET office hard to predict little or more rain even in the peak monsoon months. Manipur recorded actual rainfall of 594.7 mm during last year’s monsoon (June to September) against this year’s rainfall of 801.1 mm. In 2008 monsoon, the state records rainfall of 625.3 mm.
Although the state experienced drought last year, it seemed the state has enough rain this year.This year’s early monsoon helps the entire germination process of state’s rice across it’s 1.68 lakh hectares of rice cultivable land out of state’s 1.90 lakh hectares of agricultural land since early June.
As a result, most of the rice fields both in the valley and hills of the state, besides the urban area have enough stagnant water which happened to be the best breeding ground of culex, a kind of mosquito that spreads Japanese Encephalitis.“So the chances of the outbreak of the disease is very high if there is early monsoon”, Y Krishna, entomologist of the state malaria office said.
Sharing a similar sentiment, T Kamini, a biologist at the State Malaria Control Office, the population of the culex, the mosquito could be increased when the stagnant water submerged the paddy plants which were grown green all over the fields.
So the mosquitoes from the nearby rice field must have bitten the nearby villagers particularly the children and spread the disease, a senior official at State Health Services Directorate in Manipur observed. The climate change would be the major factor for the outbreak of the epidemic this year.
Mushrooming of piggery both in the rural and urban Manipur is also another factor for the sudden rise of population of culex as pig being one of it’s host animal,a senior researcher at the department of bio-technology in Manipur University said. “However no study or investigation has been done so far”. The busy state health officials are also yet to look into it till the filing of this report.
A decade back in Imphal, the capital city of Manipur, the maximum temperature was about 30 to 33 degree Celsius. But now it rose to 35/36 degree Celsius since last year. “This indicates that Manipur is warming-up. This may directly or indirectly related with the Climate Change and Global warming”, the MET official said.
Though this kind of mosquito that spreads the epidemic couldn’t survive if the temperature goes down below 16 degree Celsius, they were very active in the warm temperature ranging from 20-30 degree Celsius, the Biologists further explained. “Activeness of these mosquitoes in Manipur means the climate of the region has been changed up to some extent”.
The global warming affects insects and pests, mosquitoes have migrated to higher altitude and have adapted there. This also poses new health problems. There will be more and more cases of mosquitoes related diseases where never heard of.
Not to speak of the valley, even the hill dwellers in Manipur’s Ukhrul district headquarter, 84 km north-east of the state capital Imphal have started to use mosquito nets since the last two years.“We’ve been using it(bed nets) to protect from mosquito bites since last year”, AS Haorela, 55 housewife at Ukhrul town said. “Earlier we never use it. But now some of the families even started to use ceiling fans”. This proves that a hill station such as Ukhrul is no more a cold place as it used to be. It is clear that Global warming is right here in Manipur too.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here