Around 700 people have lost their lives due to encephalitis that has hit four states, including Assam and West Bengal, the government said in Lok Sabha today, as members demanded that the disease be termed as an epidemic.
"In recent months, upsurge in cases of encephalitis has been reported from Eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Assam," he said, adding he had written to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee offering all assistance.
In the last few years, even adults were being affected by encephalitis, which was usually seen in children below the age of 15 years, Vardhan said. The cases of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AEC) reported from UP, Bihar, West Bengal and Assam stood at 501, 857, 1183 and 1,217 respectively, he said.
The calling attention motion, moved by BJP member Yogi Adityanath, was later converted into a short duration discussion by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan. Vardhan said his Ministry was closely monitoring the situation in the affected states and added, "We are available 24X7 for any assistance."
As soon as information was received about an upsurge in encephalitis cases in North Bengal, the Centre had sent a four-member expert team to assist state health authorities in containing its outbreak and to provide technical assistance, he said.
Vardhan urged MPs from the affected districts to undertake awareness campaigns in their areas on the importance of clean drinking water and ensure routine immunisation for children. On containing the Japanese Encephalitis, a vector borne disease, he said the strategy should now be to get adults vaccinated and expand the coverage of vaccination.
Initiating the discussion, Adityanath said over the years, encephalitis virus has changed its nature and hence there was a need for proper vaccination and it should be declared an "epidemic".
He said the incidence of encephalitis has now spread to 19 states, affecting 171 districts and hence there was need for the government to organise an awareness campaign.