Gorkhatimes

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NE has bigger worries than swine flu

Posted by Ramesh Khati on August 19, 2009

Guwahati 18 Aug (Hindustan Times):A dozen persons have tested positive for the swine flu in less than a fortnight across the Northeast. But the region’s bigger worry is an airborne stalker — meningitis.

Meningococcal meningitis has killed 140 people in Meghalaya this year, though official count is four.

“The H1N1 virus is keeping us busy these days, but meningitis is definitely a bigger threat,” Meghalaya director of health services K.H. Lakiang told HT from Shillong.

Teams from the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, New Delhi have toured affected areas of Meghalaya and adjoining states.

Meningitis causes inflammation of the membrane around the brain, called meninges. The infection is usually caused by viruses, bacteria, or other microorganisms. Infected fluid from meninges runs into spinal cord causing stiff neck, fever and rashes. The disease can be fatal if left untreated.

“Vaccination against meningitis is on at a war footing,” said Lakiang. He denied claims that the department had run out of stock, forcing affected people to visit private hospitals and pay more than Rs 350 for a shot.

Vaccination against another disease, Japanese encephalitis, has, however, run into trouble in adjoining Assam. The health department is crosschecking districts’ claims of vaccination following 38 deaths this year. Of these, 22 were in Sivasagar .

A person shouldn’t normally die of the disease within four years of vaccination. “But, most of those who died…were aged 17 or 18, and this means either the drive was faulty or the we were misinformed about ensuring 80 per cent vaccination,” said Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. The disease has no treatment. Vaccination is for those aged 15 or below.

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