With three more deaths, the toll due to Japanese Encephalitis (JE) today climbed to 51, all children, in a month in Malkangiri district of Odisha where a police complaint was lodged against Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and others holding the government responsible for the situation.
Three children, including two girls, died at the intensive care unit (ICU) of the district headquarters hospital here, said Chief District Medical Officer (CDMO) US Mishra.
Unconfirmed reports, however, put the toll at 54 due to the vector-borne disease which has affected around 45 villages spread over six blocks in the backward district where it surfaced around 36 days ago.
At present, 32 children afflicted with JE are undergoing treatment at the district headquarters hospital and six of them are in the ICU, said Malkangiri Collector K Sudarshan Chakravarty.
A large number of pigs have been isolated in over 140 specially set up enclosures away from human habitats, while fogging and spraying of mosquito repellents have been intensified in over 100 villages, he said.
Meanwhile, Ura Madhi of Kuimetla village in Kalimela block, who lost her child, lodged a complaint against the chief minister and some other ministers and officials, holding them responsible for the death of so many children due to the disease in the district, police said.
Madhi, who was accompanied by Odisha Congress chief Prasad Harichandan and other senior party leaders, alleged in her complaint, filed at Malkangiri police station, that the disease took such a heavy toll because of the "utter negligence" of the state government.
Though the disease had surfaced in the district way back in 2011, no effective preventive measure was taken by the government to check it, she alleged.
"We have received the complaint and the matter is being examined," said Inspector In-Charge of Malkangiri police station RK Dash.
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Harichandan accused the Naveen Patnaik government of being "fully responsible" for the death of so many children and claimed that the disease assumed an "epidemic shape" due to negligence on part of the government.
The state Congress chief, who has been visiting the disease-hit areas and holding discussions with officials and villagers since yesterday, said his party would launch a state-wide "sishu bachao" (save the children) campaign from October 26 under the leadership of former MP Pradeep Majhi.
The programme would be launched at Malkangiri, he said.
Meanwhile, the state government is gearing up to launch a vaccination drive in Malkangiri, Keonjhar, Mayurbhanj and Jajpur districts in the first phase in December.
As per a directive of the Centre, the process of identifying areas where vaccination is to be undertaken will begin next month, according to state Health Secretary Arti Ahuja.