Newborns Immune to Japanese Encephalitis, Say Experts amid Gorakhpur Child Deaths Debate

Hindustan Times (New Delhi, India), August 18, 2017 | Go to article overview

Newborns Immune to Japanese Encephalitis, Say Experts amid Gorakhpur Child Deaths Debate


India, Aug. 18 -- Newborns cannot catch Japanese encephalitis since they remain immune to the mosquito-borne virus responsible for widespread deaths in India, experts said on Friday.

The comments assume significance as the Uttar Pradesh government blamed the disease for the death of at least 60 children at the state-run Baba Raghav Das Medical College in Gorakhpur within a week this August. The victims included neonates, or infants less than four weeks old.

"Newborns cannot catch the JE virus since they are born with immunity against such diseases for at least three months," said professor UK Mishra of Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences (SGPGIMS) in Lucknow.

Mishra has done extensive research on the disease and published 25 research papers.

Also, he has recommended measures to control Japanese encephalitis and dengue to the Council of Science and Technology and the state government.

"It's wrong to say JE caused the deaths of neonates in Gorakhpur as they cannot catch the disease. They may be suffering from neonatal sepsis or septicemia," said the doctor, who visited Gorakhpur between 2010 and 2016 and suggested ways to prevent deaths.

VK Paul, the head of paediatrics in New Delhi's All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), offered a similar opinion.

"It's true that babies have antibodies against many illnesses that the mother has experienced. So, if the mother has experienced JE, the child will not get it for about three to six months," he said.

Japanese encephalitis and acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) became national buzzwords after 30 children died between August 9 and 11 in Gorakhpur's largest government hospital amid allegations that a private company contracted to supply oxygen cylinders cut supply over a payment dispute.

The state's BJP government admitted the shortage but dismissed allegations that an interruption in oxygen supplementation, which is crucial for critical care patients, caused the deaths. …

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