Close abandoned mines call goes viral in Ratnapura

Japanese Encephalitis cases rise to 48 with 11 deaths

by Dilanthi Jayamanne

 Gem miners in the Ratnapura district have been requested to close all abandoned mines to prevent the spread of Japanese encephalitis or brain fever.

The appeal to miners was made by the Ranapura district health services.

Regional Director of Health Services (RDHS) for the Ratnapura District, Dr. Athula Dangalla said yesterday that a large number of abandoned gem mines and non-decaying solid waste, such as yoghurt cups, clay pots and other discarded utensils, had led to an increase in the mosquito density in the district.

Dr. Dangalla said that 68 per cent of the mosquito density wasdue to abandoned mines. The Japanese encephalitis causing culex mosquito breeds in these places where there is unclean water. The National Gem and Jewellery Authority (NGJA) had commenced closing down abandoned gem mines in Ibulpe, Balangoda. The problem could be tackled more effectively if those involved in mining close up the mines after they finish, he said.

The number of patients with Japanese encephalitis increased to 48 in the Ratnapura district over the weekend, he said. The death toll stood at 11. The reason for some of those fatalities needs confirmation. The RHD office has taken steps to receive confirmation from the Ratnapura General Hospital.

Meanwhile the MOH offices in the District have administered approximately 40,000 doses of the attenuated live vaccine against Japanese encephalitis. The district MOH offices commenced vaccinating 09-month-old infants to 10-year-old children against the disease last Thursday (07). Some children were those who had been given the first and second doses as infants. "Now they are of school going age. So we are trying to cover as many children as possible to prevent the most vulnerable group from being affected by the disease," Dr. Dangalla said.

Responding to a question about the swine vaccine, he said that discussions had been held with the district veterinary services and it had been revealed that most pigs had been given the vaccine between June and September last year as pigs carry the encephalitis virus and it is picked up by mosquitoes and passed on to himans. There were approximately 23,000 domestic and wild pigs in the district. The remaining are those that were born after that.

Meanwhile, the regional epidemiologist was also working around the clock to bring the situation under control, Dr. Dangalla added.

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