Pigs in Delhi found carrying Japanese encephalitis virus

Seven people have tested positive for the disease since September

By Ankur Paliwal
Published: Saturday 17 December 2011

Public health officials have zeroed in on the possible cause of Japanese encephalitis cases in Delhi, reported for the first time in the city in September. About 20 per cent of blood samples collected from pigs in Delhi have tested positive for Japanese encephalitis. However, since it is not clear if the pigs were local or had been imported from other states for slaughter, the whole exercise will be repeated again.
The disease has already killed around 1,000 people this year in Eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar where the disease is endemic. The disease spreads through mosquitoes and pigs act as reservoir of the JE virus. Culex mosquitoes that bite these pigs spread the disease. “In Delhi, so far, seven people have tested positive for the disease since September. Six others have been found to be asymptomatic. It means they tested positive for the virus but did not have disease related symptoms,” says R P Vashishtha, state surveillance officer with the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD).

Imported pigs or local pigs? 

The veterinary department of MCD collected 81 blood samples from slaughtered pigs in November from different places; 17 of them  tested positive. “Since the veterinary department omitted mentioning if the pigs were from Delhi or were imported, we are repeating the exercise,” says Vashishtha. Hundred new samples will be collected, half from the imported and half from local pigs next week to ascertain if the infection has come from outside. It is important to ascertain this to devise our next plan of action, he adds.
The MCD claims to be effectively carrying out fumigation near piggeries to stop breeding of mosquitoes and have given instruction to piggery owners to maintain hygiene.

To further find out if slaughtering should be shifted away from the city, and other ways of stopping the spread of the disease in the capital, a meeting will be called of all the stakeholders including public health veterinary department, animal husbandry department next week, says V K Monga, chairman, MCD health committee.

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