Scrub Typhus present everywhere in country, says EMF director

By Alexander Chandy
Udupi Today Media Network


Manipal, 20 December 2017: “Prevention, detection and response are the three cornerstones of good public health system, said Dr. P Ravindran, Director, emergency medical relief (EMF), MoHFW, Government of India at the inaugural function of the annual review meet of ‘Hospital-based Acute Febrile Illness (AFI) Surveillance in India’ here at the Chaitya Hall of FIVV here on Tuesday.



Dr Ravindran referred to the landmark findings of the AFI surveillance programme and spoke about how the mind-set of clinicians, public health officials and administrators had changed especially in regard to diseases like Influenza and Scrub typhus. He acknowledged that previously scrub typhus was regarded as a disease found only in the foothills, “but is now known to be present in every nook and corner of the country resulting in a previously underestimated disease burden”.


More than 50 health officials and clinicians from both centre and state governments and national institutions attended the meet today. Manipal Centre for Virus Research (MCVR) had initiated the project in June 2014, in collaboration with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, U.S.A., and the Central and State Health Departments under the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), with an objective to generate evidence for public health action.


Stressing on how the AFI surveillance project has confirmed seven main pathogens to cause most of the diagnosed acute febrile disease burden in India, Dr. Kayla Laserson, Country Director, CDC India said; “Just a few years ago we did not know the lab confirmed geographic  distribution of various pathogens in India”.


Indicating the magnitude of the findings, she said, “When Dr. Arunkumar and Dr. Ravi, presented the data collected from 52 sites across 12 states in India of more than 50,000 patients under the AFI surveillance project and its sister project of acute encephalitis syndrome surveillance at the American society of Tropical medicine and Hygiene, Baltimore; people listened.”


“Seven main pathogens have been found to contribute to most of the diagnosed acute febrile illnesses in India” said Dr. V Ravi, professor, NIMHANS, Bangalore while talking about the AFI project. He also stated the importance of the team from MCVR led by Dr. Arunkumar, Prof and Head MCVR, in diagnosis of Scrub Typhus as a major cause of AES in Uttar Pradesh back in 2014. This sentiment was echoed time and again by various speakers throughout the ceremony.


Dr. HS Ballal, Pro Chancellor, Manipal Academy of higher education, said that early detection was the best if prevention was not possible while highlighting the efforts of the AFI surveillance programme in enabling a diagnosis within 48 hours of sample collection. Dr. K Ravikumar, Senior regional director, RO H&FW, Bengaluru recalled how the partnership between MCVR and Karnataka State surveillance had grown from “Identifying circulating strains of dengue virus and influenza to identifying various pathogens of clinical significance and lending a guiding hand to disease detection in surveillance labs across the state.”


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