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JE outbreak on, Dispur’s reaction knee-jerk

Already 16 lives lost, Sivasagar worst hit district, Centre nixes Health department’s belated vaccition proposal

By Our Staff Reporter

Guwahati, June 21: The knee-jerk reaction of Assam government to yearly outbreaks of Japanese Encephalitis (JE) seems to go by the old saying ‘Chor gole buddhi, boroxun gole jaapi’. This vain groping around for a preventive measure long after the incident has occurred, is true this year as well for JE.

Already 16 lives have been lost in the State as the JE outbreak season got going from May last. As usual, the State Health department is scrambling for vacciting the adult population, with proposals sent recently to the Centre for vaccition drive in three districts.

However, the proposal has been nixed due to shortage of funds. The JE vaccine, after all, has to be imported from Chi.

Besides, the JE outbreak season is never the proper time to go for a vaccition drive. Ideally, it should be conducted during the winter months so that the population gets sufficient time to build up immunity to the JE virus.

As per latest figures obtained from sources, the number of JE cases is beginning to rise steadily in several districts. Sivasagar district has the maximum 14 JE cases, followed by gaon with 11, Sonitpur with 7, Tinsukia, Morigaon and Kamrup (Metro) with 5 each, lbari and Kamrup with 3 each, and one case each in Cachar, Dhemaji, Dhubri, Goalpara, Golaghat and Udalguri.  

Of the 16 lives already lost to the present JE outbreak, Sivasagar has been the worst hit district with four deaths. lbari comes next with three deaths, followed by Morigaon, gaon and Tinsukia with two deaths, and one death each in Dibrugarh, Kamrup (Metro) and Goalpara districts.

Significantly, Sivasagar district has been earlier covered twice by the JE vaccition drive, yet this year it is having the maximum number of JE cases (14) as well as deaths (4). While the sources maintain that the people stricken and killed by the JE outbreak in Sivasagar were those who did not take the vaccine, that claim in turn raises the question as to why did not the JE vaccition drive cover all adults in the district.

Overall, JE vaccition drives have been conducted in 14 districts in the State. However, Sivasagar’s experience is bound to pose question marks about the efficacy of the drives in the other districts as well.

Over the years past, the State Health department has been coming out with desultory publicity campaigns to make the people aware about JE prevention. This year, fogging drives to neutralize the proliferation of culex mosquitoes, which carry the JE virus, are yet to be witnessed.

Meanwhile, Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES), caused by a variety of viral, bacterial and other parasitical infections as well as chemicals and toxins, has also raised its head this year. Already 366 AES cases have been reported from different parts of the State. The number of AES deaths has risen to 49 by the latest count.