Encephalitis is ending our future- our children

Encephalitis is ending our future- our children

Over 130 children have died of an Encephalitis outbreak in Muzaffarpur, Bihar.
(Source: Business Standard)

Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain caused by a bacterial or virus infection. While mild cases may include no or some symptoms like common flu, severe cases can be life threatening. A severe case could include symptoms like hallucinations, confusion, seizures, weakness and loss of sensation.

Encephalitis in India

Bihar, especially Muzaffarpur, has been reporting cases of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) since 1995. In 2011, 147 cases and 54 deaths were reported in Muzaffarpur; the following year the numbers rose to 469 and 178 respectively. Uttar Pradesh has been reporting cases of Encephalitis since late 1970s.

Looking at the increase in AES infestation in the country over the years, India launched a JEV (Japanese Encephalitis Virus) vaccination programme in 2006, which in 2014 became part of the National Immunization Programme. This made the vaccine available in 179 districts in nine states, where the disease was highly prevalent.

{Source: Indian Journal of Medical Research (IMJR)}

Why did we lose our children?

There are several reasons such as heat wave and toxins in litchi (that have a severe impact on the health of undernourished and malnourished children) that are being cited for the rising number of casualties due to Encephalitis. But, it is evident that a) untrained health workers and b) lack of effective diagnostic services have made the situation worse.

Though AES is no stranger to Bihar, yet the health professionals/medical fraternity in the state are grappling to put a finger on what the disease is or what causes it. While some refer to AES as just another undiagnosed brain disease, some suggest it to be a case of heat-wave related morbidity. It seems they are clueless about what they are dealing with.

Moreover, it was also found out that these doctors were not competent to even handle critical equipment like CT scan machines, blood gas analysers and ventilators in intensive care units (ICUs).

Reports suggest that doctors did not follow the prescribed protocol of recording clinical parameters of AES due to lack of adequate knowledge and expertise. This meant that they were unable to prioritise patients on a case by case basis, further aggravating the situation.

(Source: The New Indian Express)

It is clear that while the state and central government is battling to deal with this crisis, the Government of Bihar has been indifferent towards improving child healthcare in the state for decades.

Oxfam India stands in solidarity with families who lost their children to negligence. Do you?

What we want?

  • To set up a national scheme guaranteeing effective and proper diagnostic services and filling gaps and deficiencies in healthcare
  • To have skilled medical professionals in not just urban areas but rural regions as well

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