With 24 children dying of a mysterious disease during last two months in Odisha's Malkangiri district, the government has launched a drive to create health awareness and conduct medical examination in the tribal-dominated district.
"We have collected blood, water and mosquito samples in the affected areas to ascertain the reason behind the death and augmented the drive to create health awareness among the people," chief district medical officer (CDMO), Sashibhushan Panda said.
24 children aged between six months and four years died in some villages under Malkangiri and Korkunda blocks. They had swelling in their eyes, nose and ears accompanied by high fever and blood vomiting leading to death, he said.
A six-member expert team of scientists from Regional Medical Research Centre (RMRC), Bhubaneswar visited the affected villages and collected samples for investigation.
Another team of doctors from the MKCG Medical College Hospital at Berhampur was touring the areas on Monday.
"There is no death of children since the last three days and the situation is under control now," the CDMO said.
A team official on condition of annonymity said that the symptoms afflicting the children were akin to Japanese Encephalities or Dengue. However, it could be known only after a thorough investigation of the collected samples, he said.
Even as the district administration was initiating steps to urge the people to get their children to hospitals, the people, mostly tribals, were blaming witchcraft for their troubles.
"It is a herculean task to create awareness among the people in the district. They have faith in their 'Disari' (quack), 'Wade' and 'Gunia' (black magician) and perform 'Dumapuja' (invoking the spirit). They believe that whoever goes to the hospital will invite the curse of their deity," an official said.