Jorhat, March 24: Dispur has constituted a state-level task force to tackle a possible outbreak of Japanese encephalitis (JE) and acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) during the impending rainy season in Assam.
The task force has been formed under the chairmanship of principal secretary (health) Sanjiv Kumar. Senior officials from health, veterinary, social welfare, agriculture, public health engineering, education and forest departments have been inducted as members of the team.
Kumar told The Telegraph today that the task force has been formed to supervise advanced preparatory measures to be taken to tackle spread of JE and AES cases, which generally are reported during the rainy season as mosquitoes start intensive breeding with the start of rainfall.
"As from May onwards JE and AES cases are reported from across the state and the number goes on increasing. By forming a task force we want to take proper advance measures to restrict the spread of the disease," Kumar said.
For the past few years, the number of deaths caused by JE and AES in Assam is on the rise. Last year, over 300 people died of both diseases.
Over 1,200 people suffered from both the diseases, health department sources said.
The worst-hit districts were Sonitpur, Barpeta, Nalbari, Darrang, Kamrup (rural) and Kamrup (metro) in lower and northern Assam while in Upper Assam, Tinsukia, North Lakhimpur, Jorhat, Dibrugarh, Dhemaji and Golaghat were badly hit, the sources added.
Kumar said the task force would review and monitor preparedness of the districts to tackle the situation. It will allot medicines, equipment and manpower for the districts and supervise the precautionary measures needed to be initiated to prevent the disease from taking an epidemic form.
Kumar said the government had also asked the districts to constitute district-level task forces. Each task force will be headed by the deputy commissioner with district joint director of health as member-secretary, additional deputy commissioner in-charge of health and all senior officials of related departments (same departments involved in the state-level task force) as members to supervise the preparatory measures to be taken in the districts.
He said the districts had been asked to submit action plans to Dispur. Already the districts have started forming such committees and have held their first meetings to discuss preparatory steps to be taken and requirements to be put forward to the government.
The principal secretary said from March 26 the vaccination drive against JE up to 15 years of age in 11 districts will be launched. These districts are Dhubri, Bongaigaon, Kokrajhar, Hailakandi, Cachar, Karimganj, Karbi Anglong, Dima Hasao, Kamrup (metro), Chirang and Baksa.
Kumar said child vaccination for JE had already been completed in 16 districts of the state. In case of adult vaccination Kumar said eight districts - Lakhimpur, Dibrugarh, Sivasagar, Tinsukia, Jorhat, Golaghat, Dhemaji and Kamrup - had already been covered and the state government would take up adult vaccination in Nagaon, Sonitpur and Darrang districts soon.
Kumar said on Friday, health minister Nazrul Islam, he himself and other senior officials of the department through video conferencing - with all DCs and top district health and other related department officials - reviewed the preparatory steps to be taken in this regard.
Additional deputy commissioner (Jorhat) Bubul Lekharu said during the next phase of Raijor Padulit Raisor Sarkar - a programme initiated by the Tarun Gogoi government by taking the administration to rural areas - slated for April 1 to 3, awareness meetings on JE and AES would be held.