After the ravaging floods this year in north east India, the cases of Japanese Encephalitis have shot up. Last year too, north east India was on high alert as Japanese Encephalitis had claimed several lives. In Meghalaya too many had succumbed to the deadly virus. However, this year the situation has started changing for the better with the wide penetration of the vaccination drive.
Meghalaya, along with the rest of the world has been making all possible efforts to contain the spread of novel coronavirus and it is infact one of the states in India with the lowest number of COVID-19 active cases (in terms of the per million population ratio).
Apart from COVID 19, the administrations of various districts in Meghalaya are combating an endemic by way of the deadly Japanese Encephalitis (JE). The West Garo Hills district is a case in point. The campaign against Japanese Encephalitis began here from October 1 and by October 19 the district administration had already covered 90 percent of households.
"We had scheduled the campaign for March, but the campaign got delayed because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic," West Garo Hills Deputy Commissioner, Ram Singh informed Fit Northeast.
The administrative intervention and focus on full immunization coverage has boosted the morale and efforts of the health departmentThe administrative intervention and focus on full immunization coverage has boosted the morale and efforts of the health department. Just two years back, the West Garo Hills had an alarming number of cases. Today with wide vaccination coverage the cases have drastically declined. Defying the rain, the inclement weather and bad roads, the health workers have joined hands with the district administration to fight against the endemic.
"Due to heavy rains and bad roads in village areas, health workers and teams are either walking or reaching out in ambulances. In most of the areas, four wheelers are required. We are managing by hiring pick up vehicles. Also workers are going on motor bikes. We are also taking extra precautions for COVID 19 and all health workers are tested before the campaign and also periodically during it. We have vaccinated children aged 1 to 15 years," Singh stated.
Thus far a total of 1,346 villages, where 191 ANMs (vaccinators) and 86 supervisors are involved, have been covered under the vaccination drive. Japanese Encephalitis Virus (JEV) is a mosquito-borne flavivirus that belongs to the same genus as dengue, yellow fever, and the West Nile viruses. The first case of Japanese encephalitis was documented in 1871 in Japan. According to WHO, 24 countries in Southeast Asia and the Pacific regions suffer from JEV transmission risk, covering more than 3 billion people overall worldwide.
Japanese encephalitis is transmitted to humans through bites from infected mosquitoes of the Culex species (mainly Culex tritaeniorhynchus). It causes inflammation of the brain resulting in reduced levels of consciousness, seizures, headache, vomiting, and death in some cases.