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Encephalitis claims 66 lives in Assam

Guwahati: Japanese encephalitis has claimed 66 lives in Assam so far while the total number of positive JE cases in the state stood at 308.

Data provided by the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme, Assam, revealed that Sonitpur and Kamrup are the two districts where the number of deaths from JE has increased significantly than in the past year.

The highest number of casualties has been recorded in Dibrugarh (13) followed by Kamrup (10), Sivasagar (8) and Sonitpur (7) till Thursday.

The toll during the same period in 2017 was 10 in Dibrugarh, four in Kamrup, 14 in Sivasagar and two in Sonitpur.

Till August 9 last year, the toll was 67 reflecting the government's failure to curb the disease despite the fact that Assam was identified having the worst JE-affected districts in the country.

The National Health Profile 2017 published by the Central Bureau of Health Intelligence said that from 2012 to 2017, Assam recorded highest number of casualties from JE in the country.

Health officials had been concentrating on Dibrugarh, Sivasagar, Jorhat, Lakhimpur and Golaghat districts in Upper Assam to fight JE as they have been reporting the most JE cases for years.

Sonitpur and Kamrup, where the total cases reported are 24 and 20 respectively, have become a cause of concern for the officials.

"Probably the health officials of in these districts had been under the impression that they were not prone to the disease," said Umesh Phangcho, state programme officer, National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme.

Rapid onset of high fever, headache, stiffness of neck, disorientation and seizures are some of the symptoms of JE. Each fresh outbreak involves a complex chain: wild water birds (hosts) to mosquitoes (vectors) to pigs (amplifying hosts, where the virus reproduces heavily) to mosquitoes to humans (who do not infect other humans).

By controlling the mosquito population, isolating pigs, and avoiding mosquito bites through use of repellents, nets, long-sleeved clothes, coils and vaporisers, the disease can be prevented.

There is no antiviral treatment. Doctors try to relieve symptoms and stabilise the patient.

Phangcho said they have been carrying out awareness drives and fogging in vulnerable areas. He said lack of heavy rainfall, to wash away stagnant water, is a factor behind the high number of JE cases in the state.

On the other hand, the state has recorded 54 dengue cases this year, including 16 in Kamrup (metro). However, there have been no casualties so far.

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