Assam is now considered to be the most vulnerable state for outbreak of Japanese Encephalitis (JE) in the entire country and the Government of India has started providing assistance to the State Government to control the outbreak of JE. A team of senior officers of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, headed by Sanjeeva Kumar, additional secretary of the Ministry visited the State and reviewed the situation.
Highly placed sources in the Health Ministry told Media that in the last few years, Assam is considered the most vulnerable state as the disease has spread to all parts of the State, while, in other states, it is confined to a limited pockets. Till a few years back, JE outbreak was confined to the Upper Assam districts, but now the situation has changed and there have been outbreak of the disease in lower Assam and even the Barak valley districts. Sources pointed out that according to records available with the Health Ministry, the outbreak of the disease in other states including West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are confined to a few pockets.
Sources revealed that children vaccination for JE was completed in all the districts of the State and a decision was taken yesterday to launch a mop up operation to cover if anyone was left out of the programme. Assam was the only state in the country to start adult vaccination but it has not covered all the districts and the State Government has requested the Centre to provide additional vaccines.
Sources said that the Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan is personally monitoring the situation following reports of outbreak of the disease in some parts of the state and assured to provide all required help to Assam to tackle it. He also stressed the need for launching a massive awareness programme in this regard.
District level task forces have been constituted in the State to identify the vulnerable pockets and fogging operations have been launched, while, a decision was also taken yesterday to intensify the awareness campaign. The State Government has requested the Centre to provide additional testing kits and the Union Health Ministry is taking steps to provide additional kits as soon as possible.
Sources said that a 60 bed JE hospital is being set up in Dibrugarh. The State Government has sought human resource support from the Centre to run the hospital. The Central Government has agreed to seriously consider the request.
Giving details of the assistance already provided to Assam by the Union Health Ministry to deal with the situation, sources said that all the districts of the State have been covered under the JE vaccination programme for children of the age group of one to 15 years, which will be followed by routine immunization.
Sources said that ten high endemic districts of Assam – Sivasagar Barpeta, Nagaon, Sonitpur, Darrang, Udalguri, Bongaigaon, Cachar, Morigaon, Nalbari, have been included under the multi-pronged strategy adopted for prevention and control of JE. These districts have also been covered under adult vaccination campaign to prevent the disease.
Out of 10 districts, which are considered “ high burdened districts”, funds have been provided for establishment of seven Pediatric intensive care units (PICU). Of these, four PICUs have been made functional.
For the diagnosis of JE, till date 28 Sentinel Surveillance Hospitals have been identified and the Health Ministry is providing diagnostic kits to the State free of cost.
For rehabilitation of JE disabled patients, Central Government has provided funds for strengthening of two Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PMR) departments at Assam Medical College, Dibrugarh and Guwahati Medical College have been provided.
Sources pointed out that JE is vector-borne encephalitis transmitted by Culex groups of mosquitoes. These mosquitoes breed mainly in rice fields and large water bodies rich in aquatic vegetations. Migratory birds along with pigs in the community play an important role in the transmission of JE from one area to other areas.