CHIL­DREN DEAD. THE EPI­DEMIC NO ONE CARES ABOUT

Tehelka - - GORAKHPUR - BY SOUMIK MUKHER­JEE

dren who are fight­ing for their lives in the same ward.

BRDMC is the only med­i­cal fa­cil­ity that has a ded­i­cated en­cephali­tis ward in this re­gion where more than 50,000 peo­ple have died of the dreaded dis­ease since 1978, when the first case of en­cephali­tis was re­ported from Go­rakh­pur. The med­i­cal col­lege hospi­tal serves en­cephali­tis pa­tients from 19 dis­tricts of Ut­tar Pradesh, Bi­har, As­sam and some­times pa­tients from the bor­der­ing ar­eas of Nepal too.

For the har­ried doc­tors, it’s just an­other day in the pae­di­atric-turned- epi­demic ward, which has seen the most num­ber of child deaths in the coun­try. More than 400 chil­dren have suc­cumbed to en­cephali­tis in this hospi­tal since June. The av­er­age toll is 3-4 per day, but on some days, the death count crosses dou­ble dig­its.

Last year, more than 450 chil­dren died in the peak sea­son (July-Oc­to­ber). In 2010, the fig­ure was around 550. Al­most 95 per­cent of the cases are of en­terovi­ral en­cephali­tis, in which the virus en­ters the body through the in­tes­tine.

Most of the vic­tims are aged be­tween six months and 12 years and come from the hin­ter­lands, where pri­mary health cen­tres are in sham­bles. “All these pa­tients are re­fer­ral cases. By the time we re­ceive them, it’s al­ready too late. The sur­vival rate is next to nil,” laments Bharati Bhan­dari, a ju­nior physi­cian at BRDMC. “Pa­tients come with an in­flam­ma­tion of the brain and other vi­tal or­gans such as heart, liver and kid­ney. It leads to or­gan fail­ure.”

The symp­toms in­clude poor feed­ing, ir­ri­tabil­ity, vom­it­ing and body stiff­ness; such symp­toms in an in­fant al­ways con-

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