NEW DELHI: Rattled at the high number of children dying due to acute encephalitis syndrome in Bihar this year, the Union Health Ministry has scaled up the Japanese Encephalitis vaccine in Bihar and other states.
The vaccine which was given in 231 endemic districts will be expanded to 37 more districts in the country that includes 11 new districts in Bihar.
More than 100 children had died due to AES - a rare but serious form of brain fever - in Bihar, this year and Muzaffarpur district in the state was the worst hit. JE vaccine that has a limited effect on AES is given to children between 1-15 years.
AES including JE is a group of clinically similar neurological manifestation caused by several different viruses, bacteria, parasites, spirochetes, chemicals or toxins. AES cases are usually reported starting April-May, while JE cases are reported post-monsoon except some parts where children contract the fever throughout the year.
“Experts are divided on the efficacy of JE vaccine on AES, which kills over 30% of its victims, but our assessment has shown that JE and AES cases have gone down in most districts post extensive JE vaccination coverage,” a senior health ministry official said.
“Therefore we are taking it to more districts as part of the immunization program,” the official added.
Experts sent by the Centre to state following alarming AES deaths had linked the fatalities in Muzaffarpur to JE, bat virus transmitted by mosquito bites and pesticide pollution in litchis, high temperature and sunstroke to AES.