Bhubaneswar, Nov 8 - Odisha has intensified health awareness campaign in tribal-populated Malkangiri district after at least 24 children died of unknown diseases in the region in recent months, an official said Thursday.
The awareness campaign was launched after the children between two and five years of age died in five villages of the district in September and October, chief district medical officer Sashibhushan Panda told IANS.
The highest deaths of eight each occurred in Potrel and Usakapalli villages, about 25 km from the district headquarters town of Malkangiri, he added.
The children who died had mild fever and swelling of eyes, noses and ears. Besides they had other symptoms similar to those infected by Japanese Encephalitis, a mosquito-borne virus that kills thousands of children in India every year.
Panda said a team of experts visited the affected villages a few days ago and collected about 70 samples to identify the exact cause behind the deaths. The results of these investigations are expected in three-four days, he said.
Meanwhile, health awareness campaigns in the affected villages have been intensified. The villagers are mostly tribals and were reluctant to visit nearby health centres and were depending on witch doctors for cure, Panda said.
Therefore, health officials have been deployed and mobile health units have been sent to vulnerable areas, he added.
So far, 70 children have been treated in the region.
Panda also pointed out that there has been no report of any suspected Japanese Encephalitis case from Potrel and Usakapalli villages respectively since Oct 16 and Nov 1.
Experts suspect the children might have died of Japanese Encephalitis, because the affected villages house large number of pigs, the amplifying host of the virus.