The Assam government on Sunday launched the countrys first-ever project of a vaccination drive against Japanese encephalitis,with a target of covering eight lakh people in the worst-affected Sivasagar district.
The pilot project which would take ten days in the first phase to administer vaccination to eight lakh people – all above 15 years – would be followed by a two-year study by the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) on the impact and efficacy of the vaccine,state health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Sunday.
He was speaking at the inaugural function of the vaccination drive at Geleky,one of the worst-affected localities in Sivasagar district.
While Japanese encephalitis has appeared in Assam in sporadic or epidemic forms since 1976,five upper Assam districts – Sivasagar,Jorhat,Golaghat,Dibrugarh and Tinsukia – have been the most affected in recent years.
Of the 500 cases detected this year in the entire state,127 were from Sivasagar alone. Likewise,of the 114 deaths due to Japanese encephalitis so far in the current year,42 were from Sivasagar,health minister Sarma said.
Once the Sivasagar pilot project proves to be successful,we will extend the vaccination programme to the other affected districts as early as possible, the health minister said.
The minister also asked the people to take extra caution while rearing pigs in the JE-prone districts. The China-made vaccine,that is known to have 86 to 90 per cent efficacy,has already been proved successful in Nepal.
While 15 vulnerable districts in Nepal were covered under a vaccination drive between 2004 and 2007,the incidence of Japanese encephalitis has drastically come down there, minister Sarma said.
According to World Health Organisation,the virus causing Japanese encephalitis is transmitted by mosquitoes belonging to the Culex tritaeniorhynchus and Culex vishnui groups,which breed particularly in flooded rice fields. The virus circulates in ardeid birds (herons and egrets),and pigs are the amplifying hosts.
In Assam,climatic conditions,abundance of potential mosquito vectors,amplifying hosts,agricultural practices and the socio-cultural behavior of the people are conducive to spread of the disease.
During the rainy summer months of June to August,the incidence of the disease reaches its peak.