MANASH PRATIM DUTTA
GUWAHATI, Aug 6 - Superstitious beliefs, which still persist in our society, is posing a challenge for the State Health department in its fight against Japanese Encephalitis (JE).
A senior health department official said there was still a lot to be done to create awareness about JE across the length and breadth of the State.
According to the official, when a person gets infected with JE, he or she will invariably have high fever, after which they might even start hallucinating. In such cases, there was a tendency on the part of the family members to interpret the medical condition as a psychological one. In some remote areas, people take the help of self-proclaimed doctors or quacks, which ultimately causes delay in the treatment of JE and eventually lowers the chances of survival.
“A 25-year-old woman died recently in Goalpara district due to lack of timely medical intervention. The family first approached a local ‘kobiraj’ (quack) after the patient started hallucinating. They later approached a psychologist. All this consumed a lot of time and by the time, she was diagnosed with JE, it was too late,” the official said.
A mentally-ill girl recently died of JE in the same district, after treatment got delayed because the family members ignored the hallucination aspect, the official added.
Awareness was the only solution to prevent JE outbreaks and even fogging was not an effective way to completely eradicate the JE menace from a locality, the official added.
“Fogging is an area-specific exercise and it is carried out mostly when a JE positive case is reported from a certain area. The only way to stay away from JE is self-protection. The time of dusk – from 6 to 9 pm – is the most vulnerable period when chances of JE infection due to mosquito bite is very high. So we should protect ourselves from mosquitoes during this time of the day,” the official said.
On the other hand, the official said, use of chemicals in fogging was not good for health and may cause some other disease at the cost of eradication of JE. Again, fogging could stop the outbreak of the disease in a certain area only for around seven days.
“JE is a zoonotic disease, where the Culex mosquito is only keen to suck the blood of an animal, and the human body is an accidental host for them. So we can prevent the disease very easily, for which we need awareness,” the official said.
The Health department has already started health-cum-awareness camps in every flood-affected area, and the government has allotted Rs 1 lakh for each camp. Separate awareness meetings are also going on in areas not affected by flood.
According to the National Health Mission, till August 4, a total of 594 positive cases of JE have been reported in the state with 139 casualties. This year, the highest number of 13 casualties has been reported from Goalpara district followed by Kamrup district with 11.