Vigilance hits virus war: Study shows poor surveillance on encephalitis

An article from The Telegraph
August 18, 2013
Vigilance hits virus war: Study shows poor surveillance on encephalitis


August 18, 2013 -- Poor surveillance, incomplete diagnosis and unsubstantiated scientific claims have stymied India’s efforts to control the mystery encephalitis that has killed 3,000 children in eastern India over the past three years, health researchers have said.

A new study has warned that low-quality surveillance appears to be obstructing attempts to understand the cause of the acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) observed mainly in Assam, Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh with sporadic cases in other states.

The Union health ministry documented more than 21,600 patients with AES, including 3,171 deaths, most of them in the eastern states, between 2010 and 2012. A central government programme that tracks encephalitis, or brain inflammation, has claimed that waterborne enteroviruses have replaced the Japanese encephalitis virus as the main cause of encephalitis. But many scientists believe the identity of the viruses still remains hazy.

“In this time and age, there can be no excuse for failing to identify an unknown virus,” said a senior government scientist who requested not to be named. “Technology exists today to sequence a virus in less than six hours,” the scientist told The Telegraph.

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