Bengal CM Mamata sacks 3 officials as encephalitis toll hits 108

As the death toll in cases related to encephalitis in northern Bengal rose to 108 today, chief minister Mamata Banerjee suspended three health department officials and announced an immediate drive to monitor unhygienic pig-farms, which are held responsible for breeding mosquitoes that cause the disease.

"Those on duty in north Bengal did not give information at the right time and had suppressed it. That is why we have suspended the CMOH (chief medical officer health office) of Siliguri and Jalpaiguri. We will appoint new persons in their place," Banerjee told reporters at the state secretariat in Kolkata.

An official of the North Bengal Medical College (NBMC) in Darjeeling district was also suspended on similar grounds, she said.

West Bengal Health Services director Biswaranjan Satpathy, who is camping in the affected area, said two more deaths were reported in the last 24 hours.

The encephalitis toll in West Bengal since January now stands at 108.

Almost 570 people across India have died after contracting encephalitis, commonly known as "brain fever", with authorities admitting that more people are at risk (See: India battles encephalitis as toll mounts to 570).

Outbreaks of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome and Japanese Encephalitis are common every year in India, especially during the monsoon season, and claim hundreds of lives.

Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said last month that he was distressed at the "runaway conquest of encephalitis", and demanded the vaccination of all children in vulnerable states and the provision of dedicated hospital beds.

There were 1,273 deaths due to encephalitis in 2013 compared to 440 deaths from malaria and 193 from dengue, according to government statistics.