Japanese Encephalitis claimed its first victim in Calcutta early on Friday with the death of a 56-year-old man at the Calcutta Medical College and Hospital. Health officials said Narayan Sarkar had contracted the disease in Assam.
The disease has claimed 119 lives in north Bengal since January.
Sarkar, an inspector with the central intelligence bureau, was posted in Assam’s Barpeta. He had been suffering from fever since June 24 and admitted to several hospitals in Assam before being brought to Calcutta on July 24.
“The patient returned home to Kalyani’s Gayeshpur after testing positive for Japanese Encephalitis in Assam,” said the director of the Bengal health services, Biswa Ranjan Satpathy. He was admitted to a nursing home in Kalyani for a day before being shifted to the School of Tropical Medicine in Calcutta, where tests reconfirmed the disease.
“The patient was shifted to the ICU of Calcutta Medical College and Hospital after his condition deteriorated on Thursday night. He died of multi-organ failure at 3am on Friday,” Satpathy said.
Two-year-old Jasmin Parveen from Malda tested positive for Japanese Encephalitis after being admitted to SSKM Hospital on Sunday. “The child was infected in Malda. She was admitted to the paediatric intensive care unit at SSKM and shifted to a ward after her condition improved,” said Satpathy.
Public health experts said no one had contracted Japanese Encephalitis in Calcutta since the outbreak of the disease in north Bengal. Metro answers some of the questions on people’s minds about the disease.
How does the disease spread?
The Japanese Encephalitis virus is transmitted among birds by Culex pseudovishnui mosquitoes, which breed in paddy fields. The mosquitoes infect pigs, which are the amplifying host as the virus multiplies inside them. Pigs can infect mosquitoes, which in turn can infect humans.
Are there paddy fields near Calcutta? Can the disease spread to the city?
There are paddy fields in adjoining districts. So, technically the disease can spread to Calcutta from the fringes. Experts said there is no evidence of the presence of Culex pseudovishnui in and around Calcutta. “Traces of the vector have been detected in Hooghly but not in North or South 24-Parganas. But that doesn’t mean there can’t be any Culex pseudovishnui here,” said a health department official.
Can the disease spread from the infected people coming to the city for treatment or otherwise?
No. Humans are the dead end of the cycle. So if a non-infected mosquito bites an infected person, it will not contract the virus.
What precautions can be taken?
General hygiene should be maintained and mosquito repellents and nets used.
What are the symptoms of Japanese Encephalitis?
High fever and aches, low blood pressure, blood loss, convulsions and raised intracranial pressure (pressure inside the scalp) are some of the symptoms. The arm or leg of a patient can be paralysed. One in every 300 infected people shows any symptoms.
What is the first step if someone is suspected to have contracted the disease?
Visit a doctor and get yourself tested. The disease is detected by antibodies in the serum and cerebrospinal fluid.
What is the treatment?
Do pigs need to be quarantined to contain the spread of the disease?
Since pigs are the hosts, they need to be quarantined during an outbreak.
Why is the disease called Japanese Encephalitis?
Because cases were first reported from Japan in the 1870s.