Japanese encephalitis in Assam
The Assam health department has sounded a health alert after 74 people died of Japanese encephalitis. At least 254 have been affected by the mosquito-borne disease in the past two weeks. The worst affected districts in the state are Dibrugarh, Sibsagar, Lakhimpur and Golaghat, says J M Bora, joint director of the state health and family welfare department. Though health officials are still waiting for confirmatory reports from the National Institute of Virology in Pune, in the wake of last year's outbreak, the Centre has already rushed to launch a mass encephalitis vaccination campaign in the state. In the initial phase, at least 647,140 children between the age group of one to 15 have already been vaccinated in Dibrugarh and Sibsagar districts. In fact, this time the government has resorted to a Chinese vaccine, to gain a better control over the disease. Health officials are taking measures to reduce the mosquito-population, encourage the use of bed-nets and are advising the veterinary department to take steps to protect pigs (alternate hosts for the disease) from mosquitoes.