The launch of the vaccination drive in the region has led to cases of Japanese Encephalitis (JE) and Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) going down in the past few years in north Bengal, microbiologists have said.

The revelation comes at a time when more than 110 children have died in an AES outbreak in neighbouring Bihar so far. Most of the deaths in Bihar have been attributed to hypoglycaemia, or low blood sugar, a commonly seen sign among patients suffering from AES.

The AES can be caused by viruses, bacteria or fungi. In India, the most common cause is the virus that causes JE. The syndrome is also caused by infections such as scrub typhus, dengue, mumps, and measles, experts have said.

It may be recalled here that the health department introduced the adult vaccination drive (16-65 years) in 2015 after more than 200 persons died of JE and AES in the previous year in north Bengal. The JE vaccination covers children up to 15 years under the routine immunisation programme in all districts

“The threat of AES and JE has gone down significantly in the region following the adult JE vaccination drive in the past few years, as the JE vaccinations have reduced the chances of an AES outbreak to some extent. But that does not mean the diseases have been eradicated in the region, as AES is a wider spectrum,” said the head of the department of microbiology, North Bengal Medical College and Hospital, (NBMCH), Dr Arunava Sarkar.

JE and AES cases are reported at the NBMCH every year. It is leant that in 2015, a total of 254 suspected AES cases were recorded at the NBMCH, while the number was 182 the next year, and 207 suspected AES cases were reported in 2017, while the number was 188 in 2018. In between, nine JE positive cases were recorded in 206, 13 in 2017 and in 2018 the positive JE cases were 19.

Meanwhile, the department has taken up surveillance of Streptococcus pneumonia (SP) on children in the age group of one month and 59 months under projects funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.