VIRUDHUNAGAR: Along with the Japanese encephalitis vaccination programme, the Health Department has made a conscious attempt at “safe” disposal of bio-waste.

“This is for the first time that we have given equal importance to the disposal of bio-waste along with large-scale immunisation,” Joint Director of Public Health S. Elango told The Hindu here on Tuesday.

So much importance for bio-waste disposal was not accorded during the universal immunisation programmes carried out in the past. “It [waste disposal] is an in-built part” of this World Health Organisation-supported programme, implemented in Virudhunagar, Villupuram and Cuddalore districts.

Auto-disposable syringes, which could not be used for more than once, were being used in the programme, Director of Public Health P. Padmanaban said.

Furthermore, Dr. Elango said, it would help to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.

To prevent misuse of the used syringe, its hub (tip) was being cut using a tool called hub-cutter. “Once the tip is cut, the plastic portion could be used for recycling while the needle is disposed of safely,” Dr. Elango said.

“This method of disposal will safeguard the environment and the soil as the non-degradable material [the syringe] is not thrown away casually,” he said.

Though some corporate hospitals were following the tip-cutting method, they were using electricity to operate the tool. “But, in this case, we need no power and it can be operated anywhere. Each cutter can cut up to two lakh syringes,” he said.

Depending upon its success, the method could be adopted for all such immunisation programmes.

The two vaccinators in each team could administer the vaccine to only 150 children a day so as to ensure “quality of service,” he said.

Eight districts were endemic to Japanese encephalitis. The paddy fields in Virudhunagar, Villupuram, Tirunelveli, Madurai, Thanjavur, Perambalur, Tiruchi and Cuddalore districts were potential breeding sources for mosquitoes that caused the brain fever. “Twenty-two deaths due to brain fever were reported in Virudhunagar district alone in 1995-96,” he said. The remaining five districts would be covered in the coming years.