Guwahati: At least 64 people have died from Japanese Encephalitis (JE) and 265 positive cases have been reported in Assam to date. As per medical reports, the death toll had risen to 64 from 57 in the last 24 hours and while positive cases rose to 265 from 234.
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 the 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 has been an 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.
Speaking to the media, a senior doctor of medicine at Gauhati Medical College Hospital (GMCH) said going by the pattern of an 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.
It may be mentioned that Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on July 6, 2019, informed that the Government of Assam had taken the initiative to overcome the Japanese Encephalitis situation in the state with minimum facilities.
The health minister informed that in order to ensure that JE patients needing ICU critical care are not deterred from getting timely medical treatment, all costs of ICU care including hospital charges, drugs, and diagnostics will be made free of cost to the patient at the point of care in all Government hospitals operating ICU facilities.
Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma also mentioned that the Government of Assam is aware of the fact that the ICU facilities in Government are limited, therefore, in order to overcome the same, where a JE positive patient is admitted to an ICU in private hospital within Assam, due to non-availability of Government ICU beds, a consolidated ICU treatment allowance upto Rs 1 lakh per patient will be paid directly to the private hospital in the name of the treatment patient.
“To avail the benefit, the attendant accompanying the patient shall inform the same with details to the JE central control room or the Joint Director Health Services of the district concerned immediately on admission,” said Himanta Biswa Sarma in a press statement.
It is to be noted that the central control room number 6913347770/1/2/3 has been established to monitor the situation on a 12 hourly basis along with all kinds of patient support and feedback.
The Health Minister also mentioned that leaves for all doctors and paramedical staff including surveillance workers will be kept on hold. “Any kind of emergency leave will be granted only with the prior approval of the Deputy Commissioner of District Administrations. Unauthorized absence from the place of posting even after duty hours will be treated seriously amounting to criminal dereliction of duty,” added Himanta Biswa Sarma.
About Japanese Encephalitis
It is to be noted that Japanese encephalitis (JE) is an infection of the brain caused by the Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV). While most infections result in little or no symptoms, occasional inflammation of the brain occurs. In these cases, symptoms may include headache, vomiting, fever, confusion, and seizures.
Cause of Japanese encephalitis
Japanese encephalitis is caused by a flavivirus, which can affect both humans and animals. The virus is passed from animals to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Pigs and wading birds are the main carriers of the Japanese encephalitis virus.
Less than 1% of people infected with Japanese encephalitis (JE) virus develop clinical illness. In persons who develop symptoms, the incubation period (time from infection until illness) is typically 5-15 days. Initial symptoms often include fever, headache, and vomiting.
The most effective way to prevent infection from Japanese Encephalitis virus is to prevent mosquito bites. Mosquitoes bite during the day and night. Use insect repellent, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, treat clothing and gear, and get vaccinated before traveling, if vaccination is recommended for you.
No specific treatments have been found to benefit patients with JE, but hospitalization for supportive care and close observation is generally required. Treatment is symptomatic. Rest, fluids, and use of pain relievers and medication to reduce fever may relieve some symptoms.