Despite the fact that the first case was reported over a month ago (it started in Karimnagar in AP and Vidarbha in Maharashtra), health authorities are still clueless about the identity of the virus. What has added to the confusion is the fact that experts initially suspected it to be an outbreak of Japanese Encephalitis (JE). However, only three of the 60 samples collected so far in the state have tested positive for JE. Preliminary tests in Maharashtra too have proved JE negative.
The highest fatalities, mostly children, have been reported from rural areas in AP, typically for want of timely medical intervention. Doctors say diarrhoea, followed by high fever, delirium, convulsions and then irreversible coma are some of the common symptoms of this killer disease. Most alarmingly, children showing symptoms of this strain of viral encephalitis have been succumbing within 10 to 12 hours. Says Dr Nagabhushan Rao, a senior Hyderabad paediatrician: "The mortality rate has been almost 60 per cent. This is totally unacceptable. It's important that these children are moved to the nearest medical facility where the necessary treatment can be immediately started."