Healthcare authorities in Assam warned on Wednesday of an epidemic if parents do not get their children immunised against the fatal Japanese encephalitis, which claimed 119 lives in the state last year.
"Children are vulnerable to the disease and unless parents get their wards immunised against Japanese encephalitis, the situation could be alarming," Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said.
A massive vaccination programme which was launched by the state over the weekend has been affected by the media reports of children falling sick after the immunisation drive in the eastern districts of Jorhat and Golaghat.
"These are absolutely false propaganda and such baseless news stories would do more harm than good. The stories have already led to panic among the parents who are not willing to vaccinate their children," the minister said.
The disease, transmitted from pigs through mosquitoes, strikes during the peak breeding period from April to September.
Japanese encephalitis is a potentially severe viral disease spread by infected mosquitoes in the agricultural regions of Asia and affects the central nervous system and can cause severe complications and even death in extreme cases.
The Japanese encephalitis virus has a complex life cycle involving domestic pigs and a specific type of culex mosquito that lives in rural rice-growing and pig-farming regions.
Japanese encephalitis usually starts with flu-like symptoms like fever, chills, tiredness, headache, nausea and vomiting.
"We have targeted to vaccinate 700,000 children in the districts and so far we have been able to immunise just about 200, 000," said Sarma.
There is no medication for curing Japanese encephalitis other than the vaccination developed by China.
"A total of 16 districts in India were provided with the very costly vaccination from China made available by the central government. Two of the 16 districts are in Assam," the minister said.
There are six districts in Assam vulnerable to Japanese encephalitis - all in eastern Assam.