viral outbreak

Thirty children in Odisha’s Malkangiri have died of Japanese encephalitis in just 25 days

Health officials suspect the virus is being transmitted via pigs reared in the district’s tribal populations.

Six months ago, Madan Madkami, 25, and Baidehi Madkami, 22, of Dangaskhal village in Malkangiri district in Odisha were delighted by the birth of their baby girl. The couple are now mourning her sudden death. “We rushed to the hospital when she had a high fever but the doctor could not save her life,” the young mother cried. “My baby left me.”

The Makdami baby is one of 30 people, mostly children, who have died in a recent outbreak of Japanese encephalitis in Malkangiri. Malati Alba, a daily labourer from Tekguda village has had sleepless nights while her son has been in hospital. Alba already lost her a daughter last Friday to the disease.

“My daughter Sushmita had loose motion and vomiting with mild fever,” said Alba. “I thought it was due to seasonal change.” The two-year-old girl’s chest started trembling intensely on Thursday, her mother said. When taken to a local hospital, a doctor who suspected encephalitis referred the child to the Malkangiri district hospital where she died the next morning.

Rising toll

Panic has gripped Malkangiri with every day adding to the death toll from Japanese encephalitis. Three children died on Monday taking the count to 30 in just 25 days. Out of 34 blood samples drawn from ill children sent to the Regional Medical Research centre 15 have tested positive for the Japanese encephalitis virus.

The disease has hit 18 villages across Malkangiri with the Kalimela, Mathili and Podia blocks worst affected The first recorded incidence of Japanese encephalitis in Malkangiri district was in 2011. Between 2011 and 2014, 15 children have died of the disease but there were no fatalities in 2015.

The funeral of six-month-old Sweety, daughter of Baidehi and Madan Madkami. Photo: Sarada Lahangir.
The funeral of six-month-old Sweety, daughter of Baidehi and Madan Madkami. Photo: Sarada Lahangir.

“The children affected by this diseased showed symptoms like fever, vomiting and fatigue,” said Sashibhusan Mohapatra, additional district medical officer of Malkangiri. “If the disease is not diagnosed earlier, swelling occurs around the brain and the patient ultimately dies. The number of deaths is increasing as patients are admitted to hospital on last moment.”

The Japanese encephalitis virus is a flavivirus related to the dengue, yellow fever and West Nile viruses, and is spread by mosquitoes. The Japanese encephalitis virus is the main cause of viral encephalitis in many countries of Asia with an estimated 68,000 clinical cases every year. According to the World Health Organisation, 24 countries in South-East Asia and the Western Pacific have endemic Japanese encephalitis virus transmission, exposing more than 3 billion people to infection. Japanese encephalitis cannot be cured but only treated to relieve severe clinical symptoms and patients need support to overcome the infection.

Environment for virus transmission

“In tribal village of Malkangiri district unhealthy environment and mosquito bite are the factors responsible for the outbreak of Japanese encephalitis,” said Uday Shankar Mishra, Malkangiri’s chief medical officer. “Massive breeding of mosquitoes, which are responsible for the disease, generally takes places in the human habitations where the pigs stay.”

Health officials in Malkangiri are looking to remove pigs, which are carriers of the encephalitis virus, in affected areas to control the epidemic. But this is a tough task. Malkangiri has a mostly tribal population where families keep goats and pigs in their houses and rely on the meat for food. Woth no other source of income, many residents in rear the goats and pigs for a living.

“If you tell them not keep pigs they will not listen to you,” complained Malati Kabasi, a village health worker.

The district administration has also intensified mosquito eradication and cleaning programmes in the affected areas, Mohapatra said.

Meanwhile state health minister Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak visited the district along with health and animal resources secretaries and a team of doctors. “We are trying to control the situation on a war footing manner,” Nayak said. “A team of doctors and specialists, who have come from Bhubaneswar, would be camping in this district and will take appropriate measures to bring the disease under control.”

The minister has also announced a sanction of Rs 50 lakh from the National Health Mission to the district health authorities to buy medicine and necessary equipment to control the outbreak.

Support our journalism by paying for Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Bringing the glamour back to flying while keeping it affordable

The pleasure of air travel is back, courtesy of an airline in India.

Before dinner, fashionable women would retire to the powder room and suited-up men would indulge in hors d’oeuvres, surrounded by plush upholstery. A gourmet meal would soon follow, served in fine tableware. Flying, back in the day, was like an upscale party 35,000 feet up in the air.

The glamour of flying has been chronicled in Keith Lovegrove’s book titled ‘Airline: Style at 30,000 feet’. In his book, Lovegrove talks about how the mid-50s and 60s were a “fabulously glamorous time to fly in commercial airlines”. Back then, flying was reserved for the privileged and the luxuries played an important role in making travelling by air an exclusive experience.

Fast forward to the present day, where flying has become just another mode of transportation. In Mumbai, every 65 seconds an aircraft lands or takes off at the airport. The condition of today’s air travel is a cumulative result of the growth in the volume of fliers, the accessibility of buying an air ticket and the number of airlines in the industry/market.

Having relegated the romance of flying to the past, air travel today is close to hectic and borderline chaotic thanks to busy airports, packed flights with no leg room and unsatisfactory meals. With the skies dominated by frequent fliers and the experience having turned merely transactional and mundane, is it time to bid goodbye to whatever’s enjoyable in air travel?

With increased resources and better technology, one airline is proving that flying in today’s scenario can be a refreshing, enjoyable and affordable experience at the same time. Vistara offers India’s first and only experience of a three-cabin configuration. At a nominal premium, Vistara’s Premium Economy is also redefining the experience of flying with a host of features such as an exclusive cabin, 20% extra legroom, 4.5-inch recline, dedicated check-in counter and baggage delivery on priority. The best in class inflight dining offers a range of regional dishes, while also incorporating global culinary trends. Other industry-first features include Starbucks coffee on board and special assistance to solo women travellers, including preferred seating.

Vistara’s attempts to reduce the gap between affordability and luxury can also be experienced in the economy class with an above average seat pitch, complimentary selection of food and beverages and a choice of leading newspapers and publications along with an inflight magazine. Hospitality aboard Vistara is, moreover, reminiscent of Singapore Airlines’ famed service with a seal of Tata’s trust, thanks to its cabin crew trained to similarly high standards.

The era of style aboard a ‘flying boat’ seems long gone. However, airlines like Vistara are bringing back the allure of air travel. Continuing their campaign with Deepika Padukone as brand ambassador, the new video delivers a bolder and a more confident version of the same message - making flying feel new again. Watch the new Vistara video below. For your next trip, rekindle the joy of flying and book your tickets here.


This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Vistara and not by the Scroll editorial team.