CHILDREN DEAD. THE EPIDEMIC NO ONE CARES ABOUT
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-