|A child suffering from Japanese encephalitis being treated at Assam Medical College and Hospital in Dibrugarh. File picture
Guwahati, July 30: Japanese encephalitis has claimed 96 lives across Assam, while acute encephalitis syndrome has claimed 218 lives in the state so far. Eleven persons reportedly succumbed to the disease in Darrang district today.
Chief minister Tarun Gogoi today directed senior officials of the state health department to take all measures to ensure that adequate stocks of medicines are available in hospitals across the state. He asked them to make requirements of medicines and vaccines known to the Centre to tackle the epidemic effectively.
A total of 497 persons tested positive for Japanese encephalitis and 1,322 for acute encephalitis syndrome.
The state health department is planning to conduct vaccinations in nine districts of lower Assam soon to contain the spread of the disease that has gained epidemic proportions in the state.
More cases of Japanese encephalitis and acute encephalitis syndrome have been recorded in several lower Assam districts this year. Earlier, the infection was mostly confined to the Upper Assam districts.
“We had some stocks of Japanese encephalitis vaccine meant for adults and these had been sent to Nalbari and Barpeta districts. But the available stocks are not sufficient and hence, we have placed our requirement for vaccines for nine districts before the central government. As soon as vaccines are made available, we will begin the adult vaccination programmes,” said B. Baruah, the state nodal officer of the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme.
Adult vaccination campaigns will be carried out in Nagaon, Morigaon, Nalbari, Barpeta, Darrang, Udalguri, Kokrajhar, Kamrup (metro) and Baksa districts.
The state health department began vaccinating children below 14 years in 2006. This year, adult vaccination campaigns were conducted in Dimoria and Chandrapur development blocks of Kamrup (metro), Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Jorhat, Golaghat, Dhemaji, North Lakhimpur and Sonitpur districts. The vaccine was administered to people in the age group of 15-70 years.
Children below 14 years are being administered Japanese encephalitis vaccines during the routine immunisation programmes conducted by the state health department in 14 districts at present.
“We are intensifying fogging activities in all the affected areas as this is the only way to kill mosquito larvae that transmit the virus causing the disease from wild birds and pigs to humans. Surveillance and sensitisation activities are also being carried out. Health workers have also been directed to keep track of the cases of fever in their respective areas and collect blood samples of people with fever for tests to rule out Japanese encephalitis,” said Baruah.
Some parts of Sonitpur district, particularly along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border, Dhekiajuli, Balipara, North Jamuguri, Biswanath Chariali, Gohpur, Bihaguri, Behali, North-Jamuguri, and Rangapara have become vulnerable to Japanese encephalitis outbreak.
The number of acute encephalitis syndrome cases in the district is 83, of which 31 patients have tested positive to Japanese encephalitis. The number of acute encephalitis syndrome and Japanese encephalitis deaths stand at 10 and four respectively.
Sonitpur district immunisation officer Biman Sarma said this year over 30,000 people have been vaccinated against the disease.
Fogging and awareness campaigns have been started in the affected areas of Tezpur subdivision.
The health department conducted an adult vaccination campaign against Japanese encephalitis in nine Assam districts in February
Health department officials claimed that adult vaccination has helped lower the rate of infection in the nine districts, compared to previous years
The number of Japanese encephalitis and acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) cases have been found to be higher in the lower Assam districts this year where adult vaccination has not been carried out
The health department has petitioned the Centre for adult Japanese encephalitis vaccines required in conducting the vaccination drive in another nine districts
Officials claim that children in the 0-14 years age group are being administered the vaccine during the routine immunisation programmes in 14 districts at present