After AES, will CHPV put children to death?

Just few days back when we got to know about the child killer monster, Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) which was taking lives of children under 15 years of age. Bihar was majorly affected in epidemic.

This virus was identified in 1966 during a dengue outbreak. Blood samples of two patients coming from Maharashtra's Chadipura village were tested and found positive. According to reports, P N Bhatt and F M Rodrigues, scientists at Pune’s National Institute of Virology (NIV), discovered and named this virus.

For almost three decades after that first case, there was no report of this virus, until it struck again in 2003. The outbreak in Southern India impacted 329 children, 183 of whom contracted encephalitis and died. During that time, it was found that the symptoms progressed rapidly, from an influenza-like illness to coma, and ultimately, death. Death of 5 year old from Gujarat being the latest, on 30th June.

Let us know in detail about this Virus. What is it?

Named after the Maharashtra village where the virus was first discovered, the likely vector (carrier) of the virus is the female phlebotomine sandfly. It has been detected in sand flies in Senegal and Nigeria, apart from India. The virus is known to cause inflammation of the brain, and as mentioned already, progresses rapidly from an influenza-like illness to coma and death.

According to a report published in the Journal of Virology, the Chandipura virus (CHPV) belongs to the Rhabdoviridae family in the order Mononegavirales of the genus Vesiculovirus. Interestingly, its continuing mutating trend has enhanced its lethality to cause human infections, unlike its genetic cousin, the vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV).

Be alert of these symptoms:

• Sudden high fever accompanied by headaches and altered consciousness

• Convulsions

• Vomiting and nausea

• Unconsciousness

Things to take care of:

Basic hygiene during daily routine as the virus predominantly infects children between the ages of 2-16. They are vulnerable at this age. The virus spreads through the bite of a sandfly, and in some cases, even the mosquito during the monsoon and pre-monsoon season.

It is distantly related to the virus that causes rabies and is known to have a case fatality between 55-75 per cent.

Till date we do not have any vaccine to treat or prevent the virus and therefore it is very important to follow vaccine schedules in general.

Immune responses, however, are being tracked through in-vitro studies.

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