GUWAHATI: With death of several persons every year since 2013, Assam has now become the most vulnerable State in the country for Japanese Encephalitis (JE).
Till a few years ago the disease was confined only to a few districts in Upper Assam. But now several districts in lower Assam and Barak Valley are witnessing outbreak of JE, the development posed as a major challenge for the Health department.
In 2013, 134 people died of Japanese Encephalitis, 165 died in 2014, 135 in 2015, 92 in 2016, 87 in 2017 and 94 in 2018. Sources told The Sentinel that if the unreported cases of JE are taken into account the death will be much higher than the official figures. The death toll this year has already crossed 50.
“Outbreak of Japanese Encephalitis was confined mostly to the Upper Assam districts till 2015. But now the situation has changed and there have been outbreak of the disease in lower Assam and even the Barak valley districts. Change of pattern of JE outbreak has made Assam the most vulnerable State,” the source said. According to records available with the Union Health Ministry, the outbreak of JE in other States, including West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are confined to a few pockets.
A senior doctor of medicine at Gauhati Medical College & Hospital said going by the pattern of outbreak of JE it is feared that the disease could now affect the entire populace of the State. “This is a new challenge for the healthcare providers,” he said.
The doctor said each fresh outbreak involves a complex chain — transfer of virus from 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).
“The disease can be prevented by controlling the mosquito population, isolating pigs and avoiding mosquito bites through use of repellents, nets, long-sleeved clothes, coils and vaporizers,” the doctor said. There is no antiviral treatment of the disease. Doctors try to relieve symptoms and stabilize the patient.
The doctor appealed to the people not to ignore fever. “When a person suffers from fever he should immediately visit his nearest health centre instead of taking medicines from pharmacy,” he said, adding that delay in treatment may make a case critical.
Sources said that ten high endemic districts – Sivasagar Barpeta, Nagaon, Sonitpur, Darrang, Udalguri, Bongaigaon, Cachar, Morigaon, Nalbari, have been included under the multi-pronged strategy adopted for prevention and control of JE. These districts have also been covered under adult vaccination campaign to prevent the disease.