Sunday, September 6, 2009

Japanese Encephalitis Outbreak in India

After Don Francis talked about smallpox being eliminated in Uttar Pradesh, India in 1974, he mentioned how polio was proving to be incredibly difficult to eradicate now. He briefly touched on Japanese Encephalitis in India, which I had never heard of before. I found this link on the disease’s outbreak in India now, during monsoon season. The CDC describes Japanese encephalitis as a mosquito-caused infection whose vectors are birds and pigs, really only prominent in South Asian countries. Japanese encephalitis results in symptoms like paralysis, comatose, and death, especially in young children who are more likely to be affected. Because the Eastern districts of the Uttar Pradesh region are low-lying and more affected by the flooding, the most outbreak reports come from there. The article described the region as lacking in funding, sanitation, medical staff, and vaccines. Japanese Encephalitis does not have a cure but is entirely preventable with vaccine.

Already 200 children have died and an estimated 900 have been infected. I find particularly interesting how little we hear about it compared to the press covering H1N1. The sad truth was that I didn’t even recognize the name Japanese Encephalitis and wouldn’t have found out about this almost yearly debacle without Don Francis mentioning it.

I have taken for granted that eradication efforts can be successful, if difficult, in these areas. With an already existent, effective vaccine, I think that it could be possible and more successful than malaria eradication efforts. The BBC article also describes the vaccination effort as incredibly difficult due to bureaucratic “red tape,” inaccurate reporting, and the demanding import of vaccines from China. I just think it’s a pity that Japanese Encephalitis doesn’t get more coverage and affects Indian children every year.

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