Union health and family welfare minister Dr Harsh Vardhan has sent a central team to review the outbreak of Japanese encephalitis in Assam Credit: EastMojo image

Guwahati: In the wake of recent reported Japanese Encephalitis (JE) deaths in Assam, Union minister of health and family welfare (MoHFW) Dr Harsh Vardhan, sent a Central team to the state to review the situation on Sunday.

The Central team is headed by MoHFW additional secretary Sanjeeva Kumar and is accompanied by senior officers from the national vector borne diseases control programme, New Delhi.

At least 22 people have died, while 59 positive cases of JE have been detected, in Assam so far, as per reports. The latest death was reported from southern Assam’s Karimganj district on Monday. The deceased was a school teacher.

JE is a vector-borne disease transmitted by the Culex groups of mosquitoes. These mosquitoes breed mainly in rice fields and large water bodies rich in aquatic vegetations. Migratory birds along with pigs in the community play an important role in the transmission of JE from one area to others.

In a press release, the Union health minister said, “I am closely monitoring the situation. The health ministry is coordinating with the government of Assam for prevention and management of JE to ensure that cases don’t rise in the state.” Further, he directed the ministry to extend all possible support to the state.

Dr Vardhan said that the health ministry is providing all logistical and technical support to the state government in terms of surveillance and diagnostic kits to strengthen their efforts in addressing the outbreak. Further, he noted that community participation and empowerment are the most crucial areas in JE prevention, and urged all the stakeholders to start rigorous awareness campaigns regarding preventive steps to be taken by the communities.

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Assistance provided by Centre for JE prevention:

  • All 27 districts of Assam have been covered under JE vaccination campaign, followed by routine immunization as part of immunization programme.
  • 10 high endemic districts: Sivasagar, Barpeta, Nagaon, Sonitpur, Darrang, Udalguri, Bongaigaon, Cachar, Morigaon and Nalbari have been included under the multi-pronged strategy for prevention and control of JE. These districts have also been covered under adult JE vaccination campaign.
  • Of 10 high-burdened districts, funds have been provided for establishment of seven pediatric ICU (PICU), of these, four PICUs have been made functional.
  • Till date, for diagnosis of JE 28 sentinel surveillance hospitals have been identified and MoHFW is providing diagnostic kits to the state free of cost.
  • For rehabilitation of JE disabled patients, central government has provided funds for strengthening of two physical medicine and rehabilitation (PMR) departments at Dibrugarh Medical College and Guwahati Medical College.

Last month, over a dozen cases of JE were reported in Meghalaya.

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