Eastern UP's encephalitis menace

Published: Friday 30 November 2007

Gorakhpur and neighbouring districts in Uttar Pradesh are witnessing acute encephalitis syndrome. Caused by a virus, it can spread easily through food and water. The virus can affect all the organs of the body. k p kushwaha, senior paediatrician, Baba Raghav Das Medical College, Nehru Hospital, Gorakhpur, speaks to vibha varshney on the state of affairs there.

Current status:
We have had around 1,600 patients since January. There has been a surge in their numbers since August. We had cases last year too and blood samples were sent to the National Institute of Virology, Pune. The results showed it was an enterovirus--belongs to the same family of virus that causes polio. Samples have been sent this year as well. The institute is doing research on the disease.

Stressed-out doctors:
Though we have sufficient drugs and facilities, there is an acute shortage of doctors, nurses and other staff. There are around 40 children in the intensive care unit at present, and they require at least one doctor. Doctors have been attending to patients without getting any leaves for long now. For instance, I examined 150 children on a particular day from 10 to 4 without a break.

Government apathy:
The government has promised more doctors but so far nothing has been done. We get patients from Bihar. Unless the district hospitals there are strengthened, the situation won't improve. But the people here don't know how to raise their voices. Delhi has 15 cases of dengue and now each hospital has a dengue ward. Similarly, people in Saharanpur are also very vocal about their problems and they get facilities. This does not happen in eastern Uttar Pradesh.

On eastern Uttar Pradesh:
People in eastern UP are poor and undernourished, and hence more susceptible. There is no vaccine against the disease. Improving living conditions and a clean environment can control it. People have low awareness; they still drink from shallow hand pumps even when deeper hand pumps have been provided in the area by the government.

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