Gorakhpur in eastern Uttar Pradesh might have hit the headlines for the death of over 62 children in less than a week’s time. But in the neighbouring State of Bihar, too, more than 100 children have been falling prey to encephalitis every year. This year, until July, Bihar has seen the deaths of altogether 30 children from encephalitis.
According to a government report, in 2016, 773 cases of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES), resulting in 196 deaths of children, were reported from Gaya, Patna, West Champaran and Muzaffarpur districts. The same year also witnessed 145 cases of Japanese Encephalitis (JE), with 17 deaths attributed to the disease.
The worst year for the state seems to have been 2012, when 1,095 cases of AES, with 395 deaths, were reported. In 2014, the state saw 1,005 cases of AES, with 372 deaths reported from the referral hospitals of Muzaffarpur, Patna, East Champaran, Vaishali and Gaya.
This year till July, the number of AES cases and deaths have been comparatively less, with 126 cases reported and 30 fatalities.
The State has, however, seen less cases of JE, with 2011 being the worst year, when 181 cases and 21 deaths were recorded. In 2016, 17 children died from a total of 145 cases of JE. This year till July, 20 cases of JE have been reported, with 4 deaths.
Children aged 0-14 years have proven to be most vulnerable to AES and JE. During 2011-2017, both male (53%) and female (47%) children were affected in almost equal numbers. The peak period for the outbreak of these ailments has been April to October.
“The number of AES and JE cases in the State have come down as we conduct regular meetings and training sessions with doctors and para-medical staff. We also advise people not to waste the precious hours of the patients in consulting quacks and local doctors,” State programme Officer for AES and JE, Dr M.P. Sharma told The Hindu
When asked if Bihar’s referral hospitals were better equipped to deal with these cases compared to the hospital in Gorakhpur, Mr. Sharma said, “Yes, we do regular inspections and are therefore well equipped to prevent a Gorakhpur-like tragedy.” However, referral hospitals sources said the figures for AES and JE deaths have often been fudged, with fatalities recorded under the category of ‘suspected/unknown and confirmed’ cases.