New Delhi: Encephalitis has been creating havoc in the eastern Uttar Pradesh and north Bihar for the last few years. Lying in a bed of BRD Medical College and Hospital, Gorakhpur, two years old Jeetu is struggling for life. Nobody will tell whether he will win or lose the battle of life.

Munna Sah of Gorakhpur, who was attacked by the encephalitis 14 years ago, somehow won the battle of life but lost the capacity for speech and developed paralysis. Now he is totally dependent on his parents. The helplessness of the child puts a question mark on the government’s credibility that when will the Prime Minister give his nod on the National Encephalitis Control Programme?

With temperature soaring in northern India, the menace of encephalitis is making its strong presence felt in the eastern Uttar Pradesh and parts of Bihar. BRDMCH’s child specialist Dr Mahima Mittal said, “About 300 patients have been admitted in the hospital so far, out of which over 50 lost their lives.” The number of patients is likely to surge in the days to come, added Mittal. Many children have so far lost their lives this year in Gorakhpur.

Similar is the story of Muzaffarpur. Commenting on the outbreak of the disease, Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital superintendent GK Thakur said, “The number of patients suffering from mysterious disease has been increasing since Sunday last.”

Not only Uttar Pradesh and Bihar but 17 states including Assam, West Bengal, Haryana and Jharkhand are facing serious challenges on the front of medical facilities which has been posed by Encephalitis. Even the Centre itself confesses the death of over 25, 000 children during the last three decades. Over 1 lakh children have been suffering from this disease.

Encephalitis specialist Dr. Arun Shah says, “Only 30 percent cases are usually registered in the government’s records. Over 90 percent cases are Acute Encephalitis Syndrome or AES. Twenty five percent patients die in such cases and 30-40 percent patients become victim of physical deformities.

On being asked about measures to deal with the menace, Union Health Secretary PK Pradhan says, “Action will be taken on the large scale to curb the danger of the encephalitis.” The government will provide clean drinking water, nutritional food and rehabilitation to the children suffering from the disease, added Pradhan.

A permanent unit of National Institute of Virology, Pune has been functioning here for the last four years. The premier research institute has come to conclusion that the cases of Japanese encephalitis has decreased to 7 percent. About 2 percent cases are antro-virus. Rest 90 percent cases are still mystery for the doctors. A scientist working in the field of unit of NIV said, “It may take few decades to find out the causes of this disease.”

Just before the UP Assembly polls, the Central government had constituted a Group of Minister (GoM) to look into incidents of disease. Rs 3, 400 crore was allocated for National Encephalitis Control Programme which is yet to get Prime Minister Office’s nod.

Mukesh Kerjriwal

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