Monsoon of death

Every monsoon, Baba Raghav Das Medical College of Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, witnesses hundreds of children dying of viral encephalitis or Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES). It is probably the only medical facility in the country that records such a high number of child deaths. The hospital has a dedicated epidemic ward with 108 beds to cater to encephalitis patients from the hinterlands of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Assam and neighbouring Nepal, where primary health centres are in a shambles. Children in the age group of 6 months to 15 years are particularly vulnerable to the incurable disease. A fifth of those who survive suffer from neuropsychiatric disorders. A photo-essay by Kaushik Ghosh

Published: Saturday 15 March 2014

Monsoon of death

Fever, headache and “altered mental status” like delirium are the clinical symptoms of acute encephalitis syndrome (AES). The headache is so severe that it drives children crazy. They also show irritability, body stiffness, poor appetite and bouts of vomiting. Such symptoms in an infant or a child require urgent medical attention.

A child suffering from AES from Gopalpur, Bihar, arrives at the BRD Medical College in unconscious state. Both his hands got fractured while travelling

Children from poor socio-economic background easily fall prey to the disease as they are usually chronically malnourished and have low immunity

Some patients travel hundreds of kilometres to reach BRD Medical College. Their families, mostly poor, take shelter in the epidemic ward itself. As the child remains hospitalised for days, at times weeks, they have to forgo their daily wages. This a huge financial loss for them. They are also at a high risk of “opportunistic infections” by the virus

A survivor of AES at Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Medical College in Gorakhpur suffers from neuropsychiatric disability

Kaushik Ghosh is a social documentary photographer. He can be reached at

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.