Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: Here is a shocker. Despite recording a toll of 157 deaths due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome and Japanese Encephalitis (AES/JE) in 2016, the revelation is Odisha Health Department has not identified any AES/JE endemic districts in the State till date.

This is so when sources in the Directorate of Public Health here have unofficially claimed that at least 17 districts in the State are AES-prone.

The fallout is Odisha failed to avail the benefit of Centre's incentive of Rs 300 per identified AES/JE case to ASHA workers. None of the districts, even Malkangiri, has proposed any annual target identification of AES/JE cases in 2018-19.

In contrast, the State Health department has fixed annual targets in identified endemic districts for diseases like the Lymphatic Filariasis, Malaria and Dengue.

Moreover, had the health department identified AES endemic districts here, a special fund could have been earmarked for provisioning of transportation cost to the AES/JE patients, who come for treatment at district hospitals.

However, post the 2016 AES outbreak, Odisha health department has set up 30 sentinel sites for clinical diagnosis of AES/JE samples.

As per reports, Bihar Health Department has failed to implement the Central incentives in maintaining AES/JE surveillance. And the result was simply disastrous.

Experts took strong objection of not fixing annual targets for AES/JE cases and non-identification of endemic AES/JE districts, and termed it as a grave lapse in fight against AES/JE in Odisha.

Post the Bihar AES/JE enormity, the Directorate of Public Health, Odisha,  has issued an advisory to all district headquarters hospitals (DHHs) across the State, whereby it has asked all the DHH authorities to step up surveillance to detect AES cases in the initial stage.

The advisory has emphasised on nine-point measures to fight the killer disease. It asked all health authorities in the 30 DHHs to intensify weekly surveillance to detect AES cases. It has directed the DHH authorities to communicate the blood test reports to the Directorate of Public Health on a daily basis.