The Union health ministry on Monday said 21 people had died due to Japanese Encephalitis between April and June in Assam. Additional Secretary [Health] also said that a total of 69 cases had been reported cases so far, ANI reported.

The Congress party criticised the Centre over the deaths due to encephalitis in Assam. An encephalitis outbreak in Bihar has already claimed more than 150 lives. The government in Assam is led by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Sarbananda Sonowal while the saffron party runs the government in Bihar with its Janata Dal (United).

“Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) has now reached Assam as 10 people lose their lives!” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said. “AES already killed 133 innocents in Bihar! Double engine BJP governments have not learnt any lessons. Hope Central government rises from its deep slumber to prevent any epidemic!”

At least 10 deaths have been reported across the state, Principal Secretary (Health) Samir Sinha had earlier told The Indian Express. Sinha said eight adults and two children have died in the encephalitis breakout so far.

According to The Assam Tribune, at least six people of the deaths have occurred due to Japanese Encephalitis in Jorhat district, with two deaths reported in the past two days. Jorhat Sub-Divisional Health and Medical Officer Dr Tarun Chandra Das, who is the Nodal Officer for Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme, said nine people out of 46 cases of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome have tested positive for Japanese Encephalitis.

“We are completely in command,” Samir Sinha told the newspaper. “Monitoring, immunisation and treatment is on in full swing. It is a recurring phenomenon in Assam and if you compare numbers from previous years, you will see that this year, the numbers of cases diagnosed and deaths are quite less. Every possible step is being taken.”

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Sunday dispatched a central team to Assam to review the situation, according to The Indian Express.

Vardhan assured that he was closely monitoring the situation. The Centre, he added, was providing all logistic and technical support to the state government in terms of surveillance and diagnostic kits to strengthen their efforts in addressing the outbreak.

He also urged all stakeholders to start rigorous awareness campaigns regarding preventive steps to be taken in the case. Community participation and empowerment were crucial in prevention of the disease, Vardhan added.

The central team is headed by Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Sanjeeva Kumar, who is accompanied by senior officers from the Delhi-based National Vector Borne Diseases Control Programme.

Doctors in Guwahati claimed vaccination for Japanese Encephalitis – a major cause of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome in India – had reduced the number of patients suffering from the disease and the death toll in recent years. According to government data, the number of deaths has fallen from 100 in 2012 to 58 in 2017.