44 children have died of the disease in Bihar over the past month
The death of 44 children in six districts of Bihar over the past month due to encephalitis has prompted the Union Health Ministry to order 100-per-cent immunisation of children in select districts of the States affected by two deadly strains of the disease.
Concerned over the annual death toll in adjoining eastern Uttar Pradesh as well, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Dr. Harsh Vardhan said: “Our Ministry staff will work in tandem with their counterparts in the States to identify the most vulnerable districts within a day and the actual immunisation will take place over June 22 and 23.”
While Japanese encephalitis (JE) is responsible for about 10 per cent of the fatalities, the more dreaded Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) represents a far greater challenge as its causes are still debated, noted a release issued by the Ministry.
The Ministry is also looking into setting up an early warning system to create awareness about the disease and also, seeking international experts’ help.
“Scientists of the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta are being roped in to discuss and exchange ideas on diagnosis, treatment and surveillance soon,” noted the Minister.
A high-level meeting was organised by the Health Ministry on Tuesday with the Minister stating that the “exercise should not be a purely government venture.”
“The Indian Medical Association, religious organisations doing social work, even school children have to work together to ensure that children are brought to the immunization centres. The ultimate objective is to prevent the disease by early diagnosis, implementation of effective control measures, and high vaccine coverage with strong and active surveillance system,” said the Minister.