GUWAHATI: Girding up its loins to fight Japanese Encephalitis (JE), the Assam government has put on hold the leave of all doctors and para medical staff till September 30 even as it decided to make the treatment of JE patients undergoing treatment in the ICUs of government-run hospitals free.
“Leave has been cancelled forthwith for all doctors and para medical staff, including surveillance workers, till September 30. Unauthorised absence from the place of posting even after duty hours will be treated seriously amounting to criminal dereliction of duty,” Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma warned. He added that emergency leave would be granted only with prior approval of Deputy Commissioners (District Magistrates).
Till Friday, 49 people died of the disease while 190 positive cases were reported. Of the state’s 33 districts, 32 have been affected with the number of villages affected so far was 1,094.
Sarma said the government would bear medical expense of Rs1 lakh each for patients undergoing treatment in ICUs of private hospitals. It will also pay Rs 1000 each to patients who make own arrangements of transport to visit a hospital.
Stating that the primary reservoir of JE virus is migratory birds such as Heron, Cattle Egrets besides pigs, he advised people to stay away from pigs, wear full sleeve shirts while in agriculture fields and sleep under mosquito nets.
According to him, nearly 100 people died of the disease each year in the state since 2006. “We have started intensified fogging operation in the affected areas. We are doing everything possible to combat the menace. Our primary focus is the collection of blood samples. There are three phases of the disease with the first being high fever. The government wants that when a person suffers from high fever, he or she should immediately get his or her blood tested,” Sarma said.
He said the department had encouraged health workers to collect blood samples. The health workers will be given Rs.5 each for each blood sample tested. This will be in addition to their salaries. “Things are under control. On Friday, there was just one death. But we have fear as such cases usually pick up in July or August. We have to be vigilant,” Sarma said.
“The only weapon to counter the disease is vaccination. As 80 per cent vaccination of children has been already done, the deaths of minors in the disease are very less now. People who died were mostly adults. The state government will launch an intense adult vaccination drive in 2019-20,” the minister said.
According to him, the JE vaccination has 85 per cent efficacy among children and 68 per cent efficacy among adults. “Vaccination for JE through routine immunization for children is going on regularly. Adult vaccination was done in 20 districts during 2016-17 where the coverage was about 68 per cent. However, there is a need for adult vaccination mop up to prevent the outbreak in all remaining districts. The Government of India has accepted to support the adult vaccination programme across the state during the current year after the JE season is over,” Sarma said.
He said that some districts of Lower Assam had been affected by JE for the first time this year and added that the government could not conduct a vaccination drive there three years ago due to public resistance. While Sarma did not explain, people belonging to a certain community had viewed the drive as a birth control measure.