The Centre has sought a detailed report on the rising number of encephalitis cases in West Bengal, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said.
An outbreak of encephalitis in seven districts of north Bengal has killed at least 67 people in the last two weeks; seven of them have died due to the disease in the last three days.
The situation in the seven north Bengal districts — Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Alipuduar, Cooch Behar, Malda, North and South Dinajpur — is ‘alarming’, officials in the state’s health department have said.
As many as 340 people from the area have been affected by the disease; 103 people have died of encephalitis since January.
Jalpaiguri district has been the worst-hit while the rural regions of Dhupguri and Moynaguri areas have been the most affected, said West Bengal’s Health Services director Biswaranjan Satpathy.
The number of deaths due to Japanese encephalitis is much higher this year than in 2013, when five such deaths were recorded, said Mr. Satpathy.
To tackle the rush of patients at the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital, two doctors have been posted round-the clock at the outpatient department of the hospital, Mr Satpathy said, adding that efforts are on to open more such clinics in north Bengal.
Goutam Deb, Minister for North Bengal’s Development, refused to term the outbreak of the disease as an epidemic, but admitted that the situation was “serious”.
“Sometimes, a situation can go out control, but the situation is not out of control in north Bengal,” said Mr. Deb.
He added that the health department was doing its best and chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who was also in-charge of the Health Ministry, was “aware of the situation”.