Ranchi June 20: The state health department has sounded an alert for Japanese encephalitis in 11 districts that border Bihar, currently in grip of the vector-borne viral disease and its more fatal strain, acute encephalitis syndrome.
On health alert since yesterday are Pakur, Palamau, Chatra, Garhwa, Koderma, Giridih, Hazaribagh, Godda, Deoghar, Dumka and Sahebganj. Civil surgeons of Palamau, Pakur, Dumka and Giridih have been directed to form rapid response teams and directed to give children between two and 15 years a one-time immunisation within a week against Japanese encephalitis.
The disease, earlier restricted to eastern Uttar Pradesh and northern Bihar districts such as Muzzaffarpur and Sitamarhi, spread last fortnight to Gaya, bordering Jharkhand.
Over 40 Bihar children succumbed last month to encephalitis, prompting Union health minister Harsh Vardhan to recently announce an emergency immunisation drive.
In Jharkhand, state rural health mission director-in-chief Dr Sumant Mishra said no case of Japanese encephalitis had been confirmed so far. “But as it is spreading in Bihar, we sounded an alert in 11 vulnerable districts here. Instructions have been given to immunise children aged between two and 15 years in four high-risk districts,” he added.
Elected panchayat representatives would be contacted by primary health centres for spraying insecticide across villages, he said.
Dr A.K. Sharma, head of paediatrics department at the state-run Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) in Ranchi, said the need of the hour was to take all precautions while not spreading panic.
On the death of a 10-year-old from Giridih at RIMS on June 15, Sharma said the cause had not been confirmed.
“It is not right to speculate if the deceased died of Japanese encephalitis before we get reports of cerebrospinal fluid viral culture test,” he said.
Two children from Khunti were currently admitted “under observation” at RIMS. A doctor, not wishing to be named, said their symptoms were concurrent with encephalitis and meningitis. “Viral culture reports from National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, can confirm it,” the doctor said.
Asked for preventive measures, RIMS paediatrics head Sharma said: “As Japanese encephalitis is caused by virus and passed to humans by mosquitoes, protection from mosquito bites is a must.”
Symptoms include fever, tiredness, headache, confusion, with extreme ones such as brain inflammation and damage leading to death.