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Bar on random JE tests to avoid kit wastage

- Two more deaths in 24 hours, all north district hospitals to get test tools soon

Aug. 8: The director of medical education today said from now, doctors would decide which patients would be tested for Japanese Encephalitis as random testing was resulting in wastage of kits.

The instructions came at a time suspected JE claimed two more lives in north Bengal in the past 24 hours taking the toll to 140.

Minu Sauthal, 22, of Malbazar in Jalpaiguri, died at the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital and Bijoy Kisku, 15, died at the Malda Medical College and Hospital today.

Sushanta Banerjee, the director of medical education who was at NBMCH today, said: “It is not necessary that all those with fever have JE and should be tested because they should show other symptoms of the disease as well. All patients with fever who visit hospitals these days are anxious and get themselves tested for JE. This is resulting in wastage of kits. So, from now, doctors will decide which patients would be tested for JE.”

A source at NBMCH said the kits were expensive and had to be ordered from Pune. “Patients who do not have other symptoms of acute encephalitis syndrome like convulsions also want to get tested for JE. But the kits are expensive and have to be procured from the National Institute of Virology in Pune. We cannot waste them. We have already got 12 kits from NIV and we have ordered for four more,” he said.

Each kit costs Rs 18,000.

He added that JE tests conducted in private clinics and nursing homes would not be considered by government hospitals unless kits provided by NIV were used.

“Private clinics and nursing homes are carrying out tests with kits procured from other sources. The NIV will not give kits to private clinics and nursing homes. We will try to get kits for them. This is being done for quality control and accuracy. We will ask private clinics and nursing homes to conduct tests at nominal rates of around Rs 250,” he said.

Banerjee said JE test kits had reached Jalpaiguri hospital and Malda Medical College and Hospital. “We need permission from the central government to carry out the tests. We have already sought permission to conduct tests at SSKM, Burdwan, Cooch Behar, Balurghat, Siuri and some other hospitals,” he said.

Asked about starting adult vaccination for JE, Banerjee said: “The central government has not taken a decision. But such a vaccination cannot be started now.”

NBMCH sources said vaccinations were not started at a time of an outbreak. “Vaccinations are given to the unaffected population. During an outbreak or an epidemic, there is no way in which we can segregate affected people from the unaffected. Apart from routine vaccination, no additional vaccination programmes are carried out during the outbreak of a disease,” a source said.

Banerjee said apart from Malda, the number of new admissions in different hospitals in the region has decreased.

“The number of new admissions has increased only in Malda but it is declining in other districts. At present, there are 21 patients in NBMCH, 22 in Jalpaiguri, one in Cooch Behar, two in north Dinajpur and 10 in Malda,” he said.

In Malda medical college, seven people were admitted with fever today.

The 15-year-old boy who died at the hospital of suspected JE this morning was from Jagdalpur in Chanchal block. He was a Class-VI student of Maina High School in Gajole.

Around 50 patients are being treated at the Malda hospital and sources said there was only one JE test kit which has not been used yet.

There are 96 slots in a kit, which means, 96 blood samples can be tested at a time.

M.A. Rashid, the vice-principal of Malda medical college, said: “People are getting admitted with fever but that does not mean they are all suffering from JE. We have just one kit and it would be used only when we have adequate number of samples.”

Today, north Bengal development minister Gautam Deb visited the Alipurduar subdivisional hospital to inspect preparations to tackle JE. He said JE test kits would be made available at the Alipurduar hospital and other district hospitals in the region in a few days.

The Trinamul Chattra Parishad and TMC-backed Progressive Junior Doctors’ Association took out a rally at NBMCH today protesting the students’ strike yesterday demanding that former principal, Anup Kumar Roy, be reinstated.

The students met the director of medical education and asked him to conduct the student union polls immediately.

Asked about the principal’s suspension, Banerjee said: “It is the principal’s responsibility to report an outbreak to us so that we can take necessary action. We sprang into action as soon as we got to know and are trying to control it.”