INFANT ENCEPHALITIS: New outbreak reported in Indian city

Gorakhpur – VIJAY SHAH via PRABHASH DUTTA and India Today

The latest stage in a series of infant encephalitis outbreaks has claimed the lives of around sixty children in the Indian city of Gorakhpur, in Uttar Pradesh state, India Today news magazine reported this Saturday. The city, which lies 200 kilometres north-west of India’s capital New Delhi has been the scene of yearly outbreaks of both Japanese encephalitis and acute encephalitis syndrome since 1978, a period of nearly forty years.

Official figures claim that so far, around 25,000 children have succumbed to both conditions, which is spread by mosquitoes and causes inflammation of the brain and can leave survivors mentally and physically disabled, since the first outbreak in 1978. Unofficially the death toll since then has been claimed to be double that, at 50,000. The unofficial tally includes those children who never made it to hospital and were not officially recorded by doctors. Lack of medical facilities, poor nutrition and hygiene and close contact in crowded family environments in Gorakhpur and other parts of Uttar Pradesh has seen regular encephalitis outbreaks impossible to control.

 

Government records suggest that since September 2016, 224 children had died of encephalitis at just one hospital, BRD Medical College hospital, where already sixty children died just this year. This is the only hospital within a 300-kilometre radius that has the facilities to treat encephalitis victims, some of which come to the hospital from as far away as Nepal. Most of the victims were below the ages of eight and ten. Including all age ranges, Gorakhpur has lost 114 residents to the lethal diseases this year alone..

Government support of medical facilities and initiatives to combat the outbreak, of which Gorakhpur is the epicentre, have been minimal most of the time. In 2007, a government initiative was launched to save people live’s using drugs imported from China. While successful in many other parts of India, it failed to halt the march of encephalitis in the struggling eastern regions of Uttar Pradesh.

Recently, the Yoga Adityanath administration that governs the northern state launched a massive anti-encephalitis drive, vaccinating babies against catching the illness, but it will be years before results become conclusive, and the yearly sceptre of death is lifted from Gorakhpur’s innocent children.

SOURCES:

Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984

annapurnapande, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/ManyaPande

Abhijit Majumder, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/abhijitmajumder

“Gorakhpur has a history of children’s deaths, 25,000 kids have lost lives to encephalitis” – Prabhash K. Dutta, indiatoday.in/Living Media India Limited. (12 August 2017) http://m.indiatoday.in/lite/story/gorakhpur-encephalitis-deaths-brd-medical-college-hospital/1/1024551.html

IMAGE CREDIT:

“How is Japanese Encephalitis transmitted?” – Sanofi Pasteur, Flickr (22 February 2013) https://www.flickr.com/photos/sanofi-pasteur/8497288143