Japanese encephalitis is generally spread by mosquitoes, specifically those of the Culex type. Pigs and wild birds serve as a reservoir for the virus.
Guwahati: With Japanese Encephalitis (JE) death toll reaching 49, Assam health department on Saturday, declared the state emergency and cancelled the leave of all doctors and para medical staffs besides making the treatment of JE patients in government hospitals free of cost.
Pointing out that at least 149 cases of JE have so far been detected, Assam health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said, “Around-the-clock central control room has been made functional to deal with and monitor the situation closely, and all deputy commissioners directed to step up surveillance activities in co-ordination with urban local bodies and village panchayats,”
“The state government has made arrangements for free transportation of suspected fever cases from the community to the district hospital, while reserving beds for JE and acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) in intensive care units and wards,” Mr Sarma said, adding that health department would also bear the cost of diagnosis and treatment of patients.
Intensified fogging operations are being carried out in affected areas and a total of 1,094 affected villages have been covered under the fogging operation so far, he said informing that of the state’s 33 districts, 32 have been affected with JE.
Mr Sarma also announced that the state government would bear medical expense of `1 lakh each for patients, undergoing treatment in ICUs of private hospitals. It will also pay Rs 1,000 each to patients who make own arrangements of transport to visit government hospitals.
Alerting the people that the primary reservoir of JE virus is migratory birds such as Heron, Cattle Egrets besides pigs, he advised people to stay away from pigs, wear full sleeve shirts while in agriculture fields and sleep under mosquito nets.
Referring that state has been recording the death of nearly 100 people because of JE since 2006, he said, “We have started intensified fogging operation in the affected areas. We are doing everything possible to combat the menace. Our primary focus is the collection of blood samples. There are three phases of the disease with the first being high fever. The government wants that when a person suffers from high fever, he or she should immediately get his or her blood tested.”
He said the department was encouraging health workers to collect blood samples. The health workers will be given `5 each for each blood sample tested. This will be in addition to their salaries.
“Things are under control. On Friday, there was just one death. But we have fear, as such cases usually pick up in July or August. We have to be vigilant,” said Mr Sarma.
Pointing out that only tool to contain this disease is vaccination, the minister said, “The depar-tment has already completed 80 per cent vaccination so, death of minors is very less so far. People who died were mostly adults.”
The JE vaccination has 85 per cent efficacy among children and 68 per cent efficiency among adults.
Asserting that a dedicated help desk will be set up in all medical colleges to ensure faster service deli-very, the minister said, “As of now, leaves of all doctors and para-medical staff, including surveillance workers, have been put on hold. Any emergency leave will be granted only with the prior approval of the deputy commissioner of the district.”
“Unauthorised absence from the place of posting, even after the duty hours, will amount to criminal dereliction of duty and filing of FIR with police,” the minister warned.
The JE vaccination has 85 per cent efficacy among children and 68 per cent efficiency among adults. “Vaccination for JE through routine immunization for children is going on regularly. Adult vaccination was done in 20 districts during 2016-17 where the coverage was about 68 per cent. However, there is a need for adult vaccination mop up to prevent the outbreak in all remaining districts,” the minister said, adding that government of India has agreed to support the adult vaccination programme across the state during the current year.
Regretting that health department had not been able to carry out the vaccination drive in Lower and Western Assam because of public resistance three years ago, the minister said that some districts of Lower Assam was affected by JE for the first time.