Japanese Encephalitis Vaccination (Representational Image)
Encephalitis continues to pose a tough challenge in front of the government with the death count in several states across India rising with each passing day. According to data, released by the Assam government, Japanese Encephalitis has claimed as many as 49 lives between January and July 5 in the state alone. Besides, 190 positive cases have been reported from across the north-eastern state during the time.
Addressing a press conference in Guwahati, Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said all the districts, except Kokrajhar, are currently under the influence of the disease and preventive steps being taken to combat the situation. Among the slew of measures put in place, the health department's fear surveillance network - comprising multipurpose workers, malarial technical supervisors and accredited social health activists - has been instructed to collect blood samples.
"The state government has made arrangements for free transportation of suspected fever cases from the community to the district hospital, while reserving beds for JE and acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) in intensive care units and wards," Sarma told media. "It will also bear the cost of diagnosis and treatment of patients," he added.
The health minister said the Elisa (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) kits for detection of the virus had been distributed in the district hospitals and medical colleges, and awareness was being spread. Intensified fogging operations are being carried out in affected areas and a total of 1,094 affected villages have been covered under the fogging operation so far, he said.
"A round-the-clock central control room has been made functional to deal with and monitor the situation closely, and all deputy commissioners directed to step up surveillance activities in coordination with urban local bodies and village panchayats," Sharma was quoted as saying.
He said vaccination through routine immunisation for children was currently going on, adding that adults had been vaccinated in 20 districts during 2016-17 and the remaining areas need to be covered under the programme.
The central government has agreed to support the adult vaccination programme across the state this year once the Japanese encephalitis season was over, Sarma said. The state will provide a consolidated special transport allowance of Rs 1,000 for each JE or AES patient reaching a government hospital using own means of transport in case of non-availability of ambulances, he explained.
In addition to the combative steps, the minister said, emergency measures were being taken to overcome the situation with minimum fatality. With timely management, the case fatality rate (CFR) could be reduced to a great extent, Sarma said.
"However, we recognise that the ICU facilities in government hospitals are limited. In order to overcome the hurdle, a consolidated ICU treatment allowance up to Rs 1 lakh per patient will be paid directly to the private hospital, where an AES/JE positive case has been admitted," the health minister said. A dedicated help desk will be set up in all medical colleges to ensure faster service delivery, he asserted.
"As of now, leaves of all doctors and para-medical staff, including surveillance workers, have been put on hold. Any emergency leave will be granted only with the prior approval of the deputy commissioner of the district. Unauthorised absence from the place of posting, even after the duty hours, will amount to criminal dereliction of duty and filing of FIR with police," the minister warned.
Assam is an ecologically favourable region for the spread of JE owing to heavy rainfall, large paddy fields with big water bodies, pig farming and domestic pig rearing, all of which support the virus propagation, he pointed out.
Contending that JE has no specific treatment and can be cured through supportive treatment, the minister said all drugs like paracetamol, Mannitol, IV fluids and other antibiotics were available free of cost in public health institutions.
(With inputs from agencies)