Union Government decided to intensify war against Japanese Encephalitis

Jul 24, 2014 12:17 IST

Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare decided to intensify major war against Japanese Encephalitis (JE) in the fourth week of July 2014.

This decision was taken in light of outbreak of JE and Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) across 17 States of India with more Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Assam in the month of June and July 2014. The outbreak of the disease in these States have claimed hundreds of lives mostly children.

The main element of the offensive against JE and AES

  • Priority would be to ensure 100 per cent immunisation against the JE and AES in the affected areas. The immunization would be carried out on the lines of Pulse Polio Campaign.
  • To involve all the stakeholders so as to ensure full vaccine coverage
  • Active surveillance along with early diagnosis and effective implementation of control measures
  • The Ministry also sought help from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta to deal with the annual outbreak.
  • Additional beds and ventilators at the Governmental Hospital in Gorakhpur which sees the highest number of patients and other affected areas

About Japanese Encephalitis

JE is an acute inflammation of the brain and when it occurs with meningitis is known as meningocephalitis.

The disease generally occurs during monsoon and is caused by a mosquito-borne virus. The Japanese encephalitis virus is a virus from the family Flaviviridae.

Domestic pigs and wild birds (herons) are reservoirs of the virus; transmission to humans may cause severe symptoms. Amongst the most important vectors of this disease are the mosquitoes Culex tritaeniorhynchus and Culex vishnui.

Symptoms include headache, fever, confusion, drowsiness, and fatigue. More advanced and serious symptoms include seizures or convulsions, tremors, hallucinations, and memory problems

JE and Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) generally have high mortality and morbidity rates. Since the virus attacks the brain of the child, the chances of the child becoming mentally retarded are high.

Situation in India:

In India, the most affected region is eastern India particularly Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Assam.

Uttar Pradesh generally reports 500-600 JE deaths every year while just in June 2013 in Bihar over 100 children died of the disease. Whereas in July 2013, disease claimed about 100 lives in West Bengal and similar number of lives in lower Assam, especially in Barpeta district.

The World Health Organisation put the JE toll at over 1000 in 2013.

Recent Effort of Union Government to tackle JE:

On 4 October 2013, Union Health Ministry launched indigenously produced Japanese Encephalitis (JE) vaccine JENVAC. The vaccine has been jointly developed by scientists of National Institute of Virology (NIV) Pune, Indian Council of Medical Research and Bharat Biotech Limited- Hyderabad.

On 3 July 2014, Union Government introduced adult vaccine against JE along with rotavirus, rubella and polio as part of India’s Universal Immunization Programme (UIP).

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