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Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Nov 18:

In what emerged as a major revelation on the suspected Japanese encephalitis deaths, the expert team constituted to unravel the inexplicable deaths in Odisha’s Malkangiri today claimed that the deaths were caused due to hepatomyoencephalopathy.

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The head of the expert team, an epidemiologist working with Christian Medical College in Vellore, attributed the deaths to hepatomyoencephalopathy due to toxicity developed after consumption of poisonous seeds.

“Anthraquinone is the suspected toxin found in a plant called Bada Chakunda (cassia occidentalis). Anthraquinone is known to be present in seeds of weeds of cassia occidentalis. They were found in the urine samples of a few tested children which indicate that the children had consumed the seeds of this weed plant,” the head of the expert team, Dr T Jacob John said.

“There are biochemical abnormalities that indicate damage to liver cells, skeletal and heart muscle cells. This combination fits with the diagnosis of hepatomyoencephalopathy,” John added.

It may be mentioned here that the state government was in a fix over the death of over 100 children in the district said to be due to Japanese encephalitis. The government had formed several health teams to ascertain the cause of the deaths and contain the spread of the mysterious disease.

“Toxicity develops when the bean-like seeds found in the Chakunda plants are consumed. The yellow flowering plant is found in bushes,” state Health Secretary Arti Ahuja expressed.

There is a popular belief among the tribal populace that Chakunda seeds cure stomach ailments, helps in deworming and its roots helps one recover from anaemia.

Notably, urine samples of five children were sent for test at Lucknow-based Indian Institute of Toxicology Research (IITR) which confirmed positive for the outbreak of the disease.

On the other hand, one more child today succumbed to suspected Japanese encephalitis while undergoing treatment at District Headquarters Hospital. The three-year-old deceased boy from Kataguda village under Kalimela block in Malkangiri district has been identified as Siddhant Betty. With this, the unofficial toll has increased to 116.

Three children are presently undergoing treatment at the DHH.