New Delhi: The Union Cabinet is likely to approve a Rs 4,000-crore multi-pronged plan to tackle Japanese Encephalitis and Acute Encephalitis Syndrome which have so far claimed almost 1,000 lives in the country this year.

Sources say the Cabinet meet on Thursday is likely to approve the recommendations made by the Group of Ministers (GoM) for evolving a multi-pronged strategy to tackle the virus.

The plan involves stepping up healthcare, water and sanitation facilities for the affected persons, besides improving their nutrition and rehabilitation plan involving the five ministeries of Health and Family Welfare, Rural Development and Drinking Water and Sanitation, Women and Child Development and Social Justice and Empowerment.

While the biggest component of around Rs 2,000 crore is of the Drinking Water and Sanitation Ministry, the Health Ministry will contribute to the extent of Rs 1,300 crore and the remaining by the other Ministries. Due to shortage of funds, some Ministries have agreed to finance the plan through their own budgetary resources, the sources say.

The GoM had in November last year made certain recommendations for tackling the deadly virus which has affected over 6,300 persons across the country till September.

Incidentally, even after almost 1,000 deaths due to the virus, the authorities have so far not been able to identify the virus in the worst affected states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

Among some of the recommendations made by the GoM are provision of safe drinking water to the affected persons by replacing shallow tubewells with deep tubewells and providing proper sanitation facilities in high risk districts, besides setting up improved health facilities and step-up vaccination of children in the area.

The GoM also recommended provision of improved health management systems to tackle JE/AES, improve nutrition of the affected people and undertake their rehabilitation, besides helping people in affected areas to find alternative means of livelihood for pig-rearing population and set up special schools for mentally challenged children in affected areas.

The Health Ministry proposals include the setting up of a 10-bedded Intensive care unit in district hospitals of affected areas, vaccination of children, supporting the case management techniques in hospitals of affected areas and intensifying research in identifying the viruses causing AES.

Besides, it also proposes to increase the number of ambulances in the area for ensuring speedy treatment of affected children and help medical colleges set up departments of physical medicine to help tackle JE/AES cases.

The Health Minister had during the last GoM stressed on the need for the involvement of various ministries to work for its prevention and rehabilitation of those affected.

The Ministry of Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation was asked to strengthen measures for monitoring water quality and replace shallow hand pumps with deep bore hand pumps in Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) effected areas, besides revising population related norms for installation of hand pumps.

The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment will also set up rehabilitation units at district level and provide special schools for mentally challenged children in JE affected areas.

It has also been suggested to grant fixed monthly compensation to BPL families having children with disability due to JE, while the Ministry of Women and Child Development will be asked to provide nutrition for infants and children in affected districts and sensitise Anganwadi workers and their supervisors about JE and AES.

Suggestions have also been made to the Rural Development Ministry to provide alternate economic activities to people engaged in pig rearing, as pigs carry the JE virus which travels to humans.

To deal with the problem of urban slums, the Ministry of Urban Development has been asked to provide safe drinking water in areas where JE has been detected.

Japanese Encephalitis is a disease caused by the mosquito- borne Japanese encephalitis virus, which may cause drowsiness, confusion and disorientation, seizures, sudden fever, severe headache, nausea and vomiting, tremor or convulsions, stiff neck, bulging in the soft spots (fontanels) of the skull in infants. Urgent signs and symptoms may include altered levels of consciousness.

AES including JE is reported mainly from Assam, Bihar, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh which account for approximately 80 percent of cases and deaths with a case fatality rate ranging from 20 to 25 percent.
Specific anti-viral drug for AES including Japanese Encephalitis is not available till date and cases are managed symptomatically.

Also known as 'brain fever', JE effects the brain resulting in various medical complications. According to WHO, the case fatality rate can be as high as 60 per cent among those with disease symptoms and 30 per cent of those who survive suffer from lasting damage to the central nervous system.


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