The centre has sent a high-level team to Assam to pre-empt any chance of an encephalitis outbreak after the disease claimed over 140 children in Bihar. Health Minister Harsh Vardhan sent the central team to review the Japanese Encephalitis (JE) situation and also directed the ministry to assist the Assam government in its prevention efforts.
Incidences of encephalitis have been reported from Assam for 10 years. This year, 21 people died in the state due to encephalitis - four of them children, while six died this week in Jorhat district.
At least 69 cases of encephalitis have been reported in the last three months, Assam Health Secretary Samir Sinha told NDTV. "The overall situation is under control and we have been monitoring it for months. We have chalked out a strategy in advance for Assam," said Mr Sinha.
"Bihar was a different case, Assam is different. There is a lot of speculation as to what caused the disease. In case of Muzaffarpur, we have set up an interdisciplinary research team to look at various aspects of the disease to arrive at a final conclusion as to what led to the disease. Assam is of course much different and encephalitis has been happening here for several years," Additional Health Secretary of the Health Ministry Sanjeev Kumar told NDTV.
In 2018, twenty-one deaths due to encephalitis were reported from Assam. The state saw major outbreaks between 2014 and 2017. In 2014, there were 165 deaths. In 2015, there were 160 deaths and in 2017 there were 119 deaths.
"The SOP (standard operating procedure) remains the same and is very robust. Early detection is the key focus, so the thrust is to improve the surveillance system. In Assam, unlike Bihar, we have seen the victims are mostly adults and death of children is less," said Mr Kumar.
With the centre's support, almost all the districts of Assam will be brought under encephalitis vaccine programme, said officials.
Encephalitis vaccination campaign for children in the age group of 1-15 years, and adult vaccine programme are going on.
Ten districts in Assam have been marked as endemic to encephalitis, said sources.