Malkangiri Infant Deaths: Japanese Encephalitis May Not Be The Culprit

Malkangiri/Jharsuguda: A team of three doctors from Koraput reached MV-79 Tamanapalli village in Malkangiri district on Monday to ascertain the reasons behind the death of six infants aged 2 months to 5 months during the last fortnight.

According to media reports, the doctors will also be treating seven infants reportedly suffering from fever, cold and cough. The team will camp in the village for seven days and conduct health check-ups and collect blood samples for tests.

Some infants whose condition deteriorated have been shifted to Malkangiri and Kalimela hospitals, media reports added.

The deaths have spread panic in the village. While these are being attributed to some unknown disease, some reports feared that the small hamlet has been hit by Japanese Encephalitis, which wreaked havoc in the region in 2016 killing 103 children.


Talking to mediapersons in Jharsuguda, Health and Family Welfare Minister Naba Kishore Das said tests have revealed that the infants are suffering from acute respiratory infection. “Medical teams are conducting health check-ups and collecting blood samples of the children. Measures will be taken once we get the reports,” he said.


Malkangiri Chief District Medical Officer Dr Ajay Kumar Baitharu had earlier said none of the children showed any symptom of Japanese Encephalitis or Acute Encephalitis.

He told journalists the deaths occurred over a period of five months and not in the last 15 days. “Even though the diseases are yet to be identified, we suspect the deaths could be linked to malnutrition. Two of the infants were also suffering from low birth weight. Such children are susceptible to infections. Our doctors have taken blood samples from the children,” said Baitharu.


District officials said unwillingness of the parents to take the children to hospital despite being persuaded by ASHAs has aggravated the situation.

The villagers instead seek the help of witchdoctors, the official noted.

A mobile medical health unit has been stationed at the village since the last 3 days for treatment of the malnourished children.


Pneumonia and encephalitis cases have been a major cause of concern in Odisha. In 2017, the State Health Directorate released a report, which said 337 people succumbed to encephalitis the previous year. The report said in 2016, 322 pneumonia-related deaths were recorded.

While Malkangiri district reported high infant deaths during the year due to encephalitis, the disease continued to haunt the State in 2017 as well, with 510 encephalitis cases reported during the first half of the year.

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