160 persons have died of the disease since May; state government yet to respond to notice of state human rights commission on failing to tackle the disease
The number of cases of Japanese encephalitis (JE) is on the rise in Assam with as many as 26 of the 27 districts in the state being affected by it. The vector-borne disease has claimed the lives of 160 persons, including 23 children below age 15, and has infected over 744 persons since May this year.
JE is characterised by inflammation of the brain and high fever and is a type of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES). According to figures given by the state government, 2,071 cases of AES and 347 deaths caused by AES have been reported between May and September 17 this year. Out of these, 744 cases and 160 deaths were caused by JE. While Japanese encephalitis is transmitted by Culex mosquitoes, AES is a disease of uncertain etiology and includes Japanese encephalitis.
Assam government officials have admitted the seriousness of the problem. “We have proposed vaccination for JE all over the state and have requested for funds,” said Manish Thakur, mission director, National Rural Health Mission, Assam.
The state government has increased the number of laboratories this year for detecting the cases in all the 27 districts in the state. On being asked about the department’s plan to control AES, officials said that there are already provisions for detection of AES. They added that the public health engineering department (PHED) and the social welfare departments have been instructed to tackle the problem.
“We have asked both these departments to engage their workers to spread awareness among people and to ask the people to visit the diagnostic centres for tests,” said Rabindra Nath Talukdar, assistant director of the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP), Assam.
“Earlier, we had only 13 such centres for 27 districts in the state. Now, we have one for each district. This will definitely play a crucial role in faster diagnosis of the diseases,” said Biren Kumar Baruah, state programme officer of NVBDCP.
“Earlier, lot of cases used to go unnoticed due to people’s ignorance. But with increasing awareness over the years, this has changed. This could be one of the reasons behind the detection of such a large number of cases,” added Baruah.
From upper Assam to lower Assam
According to health officials at NVBDCP, not only has the number of cases increased over the years, newer areas are also being affected gradually.
“Initially, cases were mostly reported in the upper Assam districts of Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, Golaghat, Sivasagar, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia and Jorhat. Now, the disease has also been detected in lower Assam districts. This year, cases have been reported from 26 out of the 27 districts in the state,” said Talukdar. According to Assam health department, not only has there been a gradual increase in the number of cases, over the years newer areas have also been affected. Also, the period in which these cases are usually reported has increased from May to July end to May to September or October.
|Killer disease on the rise in Assam|
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