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Encephalitis claims more lives in UP; toll 166
Lucknow, Aug 20(IANS):
Published on 20 Aug. 2009 11:36 PM IST
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With the death of five more children Thursday in eastern Uttar Pradesh, the deadly encephalitis has now taken 166 lives of minors in this part of the state in 2009, officials said. According to health officials, a total of 1,117 cases have been reported in seven districts of eastern Uttar Pradesh till now and of them 677 are children below the age of 15. All the fatalities have also been of minors. “Last year, out of the 1,000-odd patients admitted here, 734 were children below 15 years of which 151 died till Aug 31, 2008. This year, 677 cases out of over 1,000 patients were children and the casualty is 166,” Rakesh Saxena, the principal of Baba Raghav Das Medical College (BRDMC) in Gorakhpur, told IANS. As per the records of the 56-bed encephalitis ward of BRDMC, the only hospital in the region specialised in the treatment of the disease, presently there are nearly 150 children under treatment. “At least 90 percent of the patients are children as they are most susceptible and prone to the disease,” Saxena added. The virus, which has become an annual feature here, has the state health department in a tizzy. “Till 2005 the region was suffering due to Japanese Encephalitis (JE), a mosquito borne disease, which was eradicated to some extent. But now it is Enteroviral Encephalitis (VE), which is water borne,” Additional Director (Health) L.P. Rawat said. “Majority of those admitted (to hospital) have been treated. We are alert but cannot help it until there is awareness in the people to protect themselves from the viruses,” he added. However, the doctors at the BRDMC differ in their views. “Although we have more patients of VE but JE is still killing children. At least 30 percent patients have JE. In fact nothing constructive has been done so far to save the children,” K.P. Kushawaha, head of the paediatrics department of BRD Medical College, said. But experts believe that the blame game between the state and the central government is leading to more deaths in the region. “The disease hit the region in 1978 and has since then has killed over 30,000 children. The political parties are more interested in confusing the residents rather than spreading awareness and eradicating the disease that could soon become an epidemic,” said T.N. Dhole, an expert on the subject at the Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences (SGPGIMS) here. “With only 30-odd deaths swine flu has been declared an epidemic. It is just because it is spreading across the world and could easily spread from one country to another. But the government is not paying any heed to this (JE and VE) that has taken more lives in a small portion of Uttar Pradesh than the entire toll of swine flu,” he said. Although there have been some actions by political parties on the disease, they have led to no or negligible results. “Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi had visited the BRDMC hospital in 2005, after which the union health ministry imported Chinese vaccine which was administered to over 56 lakh (5.6 million) children. But the death rate didn’t fall in the subsequent years,” R.N. Singh, a practising paediatrician in Gorakhpur, said. Gandhi again visited Gorakhpur in 2008, this time with a team of doctors including two from US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta. The team studied the virus and its spread. The results of the study are still awaited. Gorakhpur is nearly 300 km from here. The state government on its part has been continuously blaming the central government. “We have sent many reports to the centre to help us in eradicating the disease. But they have failed to respond. But to the best of out capacity, we have provided every facility at the BRD Medical College to treat the patients,” state Health Minister Anant Kumar Mishra said. “We had demanded the upgradation of the BRD Medical College and equip it with modern system to study encephalitis. But the state and the central governments opened one such centre in the SGPGIMS, Lucknow. Eastern Uttar Pradesh also needs various mobile teams of expert doctors to reach the patients immediately because according to my estimate only one out of a 100 children reaches the BRD Medical College,” Singh said.

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