Japanese encephalitis: The mosquito menace hovering over Yogi Adityanath's Gorakhpur is serious
30 children have died in the past 48 hours.
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Gorakhpur is the home turf of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath while PM Narendra Modi had laid the foundation stone for an AIIMS here in July 2016. Yet as the evening progressed, an unsettling news about the death of 30 children in the past 48 hours from the BRD Medical College in Gorakhpur shocked newsrooms across the country.
Japanese encephalitis is said to be the cause behind the deaths - as it has been since the late 1970s and early 1980s. Open drains, clogged sewers, waterlogged streets, open garbage with clouds of mosquitoes is a common sight here. Politics in the name of religion probably garners more votes than the politics of cleanliness and basic civic amenities - PM's flagship Swachh Bharat Mission - sadly has no takers here.
Politics in the name of religion probably garners more votes than the politics of cleanliness and basic civic amenities.
The monsoon rains, lack of drainage and humid atmosphere of the Terai provides favourable condition for the virus. And every year at least 30 infants get admitted to the BRD hospital daily between July to October. The disease has a death rate of around 25 per cent in the area. Every year - on an average around 600 infants lose their life due to this dreaded disease. The area includes some six districts of western Bihar, 13 districts of eastern Uttar Pradesh and some parts of the Terai in Nepal.
The disease knows no religion or caste divides. It does not discriminate between the rich and the poor. It has faithfully visited eastern UP for close to four decades and left in its wake death and destruction. Successive state and central governments have failed to banish the scourge of eastern UP.
Setting up of an AIIMS in Gorakhpur is a welcome move, but unless primary- and district-level healthcare is not bolstered, any no premier institute can help us manage encephalitis effectively. The disease, if managed properly in the earlier stages, demonstrates a lower mortality rate. So, while we are shocked at the news coming from the BRD hospital, it must be understood that by the time a patient reaches BRD medical college - after referrals and re-referrals - often very little can be done and often that very little is further constricted by the shortage of drugs and amenities.
The story of eastern UP's battle with encephalitis is the story of the failure of our public healthcare system. An intensive and extensive immunisation programme followed by boosting of civic amenities across towns and villages and ensuring that basic medical intervention is possible at the village and district levels - taken up on a war footing will be needed to banish the scourge of eastern UP.