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State JE toll 45, silence on others

Calcutta, Aug. 21: The health department today filed an affidavit in Calcutta High Court saying it had controlled the Japanese Encephalitis outbreak and requested that a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking declaration of the disease as “epidemic” be quashed.

“From January 1 to August 15 this year, altogether 240 patients were detected with Japanese Encephalitis. Of them, 45 people died. The rate of death is 18.8 per cent. So the disease cannot be declared an epidemic,” the affidavit said.

State director of health services Biswaranjan Sathpathy told this paper today that there “have been 172 deaths from Acute Encephalitis Syndrome and 44 deaths because of Japanese Encephalitis from January 1 to August in north Bengal only”.

The state’s submission in court, however, did not mention that the maximum deaths reported were of patients who had shown symptoms of Japanese Encephalitis but whose tests had not shown been positive for the viral attack. Doctors in north Bengal, the region that has reported the maximum number of deaths, have failed to conclusively diagnose what had caused these deaths, which are being bracketed as Acute Encephalitis Syndrome.

Ganatantrer Bhasha, Protibader Bhasha, a Calcutta-based organisation, had move the PIL last week seeking the high court’s intervention in the “serious problem of Japanese Encephalitis in the state” and demanded that the disease be declared an “epidemic”.

A division bench headed by Chief Justice Manjula Chellur had asked the health department to file an affidavit stating the Japanese Encephalitis situation in Bengal and what measures the government had taken to combat the problem.

The PIL is likely to come up for hearing within a couple of days. “We will prove before the court that the health department’s report is not correct,” said Rabishankar Chatterjee, the petitioner’s lawyer.