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Encephalitis a rising spectre in Assam

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  24 May 2015 12:00 AM GMT

Nearly 2,000 AES & JE deaths in Assam since 2009, second highest in country

Encephalitis Facts
* From 2010 to 2014, UP reported 18,170 cases of which 3,071 resulted in death. The corresponding figures reported for Assam are 9,063 cases and 1,780 deaths.
* Cases in Assam have been on the rise since 2009, when there were 462
* AES cases and 92 deaths and 208 JE cases and 46 deaths.
* In 2014, the State recorded 2,194 AES cases leading to 360 deaths.
* JE cases last year were 761 which led to 165 deaths.

By Our Staff Reporter

Guwahati, May 23: Nearly 2,000 people, mostly children, have died in Assam since 2009 because of acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) and Japanese encephalitis (JE).

According to the Directorate of tiol Vector Borne Disease Control Programme, the toll in Assam, which is increasing every year particularly since 2011, is the second highest in the country after Uttar Pradesh.

AES and JE are different forms of brain fever, some of which are preventable.

Encephalitis is a general term for a range of diseases that causes inflammation of the brain. JE, one of the main diseases causing AES, is a viral infection spread mainly through Culex mosquito bites.

From 2010 to 2014, Uttar Pradesh reported 18,170 cases of which 3,071 resulted in death. The corresponding figures reported for Assam are 9,063 cases and 1,780 deaths.

The cases in Assam have been on the rise since 2009, when there were 462 AES cases and 92 deaths and 208 JE cases and 46 deaths.

In 2014, the State recorded 2,194 AES cases leading to 360 deaths. JE cases last year were 761 which led to 165 deaths.

Though the cases are reported normally from July – after the onset of the rainy season, this year there has been already 101 AES cases and five deaths, and three JE cases that led to one death.

Significantly, Union Health ministry’s data show that a majority of the vulnerable states have failed to utilise funds under the tiol programme to prevent JE and AES. Assam spent less than 10 per cent of funds.

JE mostly affects children below 15 years. Nearly 25% of affected children die and among survivors about 30%-40% suffer from physical and mental impairment. However, in the last few years, epidemiological data has revealed that many adults are also being affected and cases of morbidity and mortality, particularly for JE, have been observed in adults in Assam and now in the districts of North Bengal.

“The Culex mosquitoes mainly breed during April-September, when there is excessive and prolonged rainfall. This coupled with high humidity in the State, provide a favourable condition for their proliferation. The prevalence of JE and AES is seen mainly in the rice production areas where crop-fields are inundated for prolonged periods and where there are population of pigs and herons which are reservoirs of the virus,” says associate professor of Tezpur Medical College Dr Dharmakanta Kumbhakar.

Dr Kumbhakar also cited lack of health care facilities in rural areas as a reason for the increasing number of AES and JE deaths.

Barpeta, Baksa, Darrang, Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Kamrup (Rural), Kamrup (Metro), lbari, Sivsagar and Sonitpur have been identified as highly vulnerable districts in the State.

Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain which can be caused due to various pathogens including virus, bacteria and protozoa. While JE is a vector borne disease transmitted through Culex vishnui group of mosquitoes, Encephalitis can also be caused by entero-viruses which are water borne.

Japanese Encephalitis (JE) was observed for the first time in 1955 in Vellore. Since 2012, deaths due to AES have been increasing annually.

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