Officials on Monday said that the number of deaths has reached 54 in over one month from Japanese encephalitis in India’s eastern state of Odisha.

The deaths were reported in tribal-dominated Malkangiri District, about 650 km southwest of Bhubaneswar, the capital city of Odisha.

“The Japanese encephalitis has claimed 54 lives in Malkangiri district of Odisha in just over a month’’, health officials said.

Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) is the most important cause of viral encephalitis in Asia.

It is a flavivirus related to dengue, yellow fever and West Nile viruses, and is spread by mosquitoes.

The local government has appointed a senior official to monitor and oversee measures to check the spread of Japanese encephalitis.

Officials said State Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik would review the situation to take a final call on the option of culling infected pigs.

Earlier, the local government decided to construct enclosures (pigpens) near affected villages to isolate Japanese encephalitis infected pigs in order to curb the disease, which is mainly spread through mosquito bites.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), most JEV infections are mild fever and headache or without apparent symptoms.

However, severe disease is characterised by rapid onset of high fever, headache, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, seizures, spastic paralysis and ultimately death.

Officials said around 40 children are presently undergoing treatment at the Malkangiri district hospital.

In 2015, 52 people died in India’s northeastern state of Assam due to Japanese encephalitis.