Encephalitis, its causes, prevention and prevalence in India, explained

Everything you need to know about encephalitis, among a range of reasons for the death of 60 children in Gorakhpur.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: August 12, 2017 4:39 pm
gorakhpur children death, brd medical college, brd hospital children death, up hospital kids death, oxygen supply, UP childrens death, Gorakahpur hospital, UP news, india news, indian express The deaths have prompted the BJP-led state government to order a magisterial inquiry into the incident. (Express Photo Vishal Srivastav)

At least 60 children have lost their lives in the last five-days at the state-run Baba Raghav Das Medical College Hospital in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh due to various reasons, among them infections arising out of encephalitis. The deaths have prompted the BJP-led state government to order a magisterial inquiry into the incident. The deaths are being blamed on infections and possible disruption of oxygen supply in medical wards. But the hospital staff has rejected oxygen shortage as the reason.

So what is encephalitis?

Encephalitis is a potentially life-threatening but rare disease causing “acute inflammation” of the brain. According to the Medical News Today website, the term “acute”, in medicine, is used when a disease appears abruptly and grows at a fast pace. A person afflicted with encephalitis requires serious medical attention.

What are the causes of encephalitis?

The disease can occur in people of all ages, but children and the elderly are more at risk of being afflicted with the disease. The usual cause of the rare disease is either a viral inflection. Sometimes it is caused when the brain’s own immune system mistakenly attacks brain tissue. According to a New York Times report, in rare cases, encephalitis is caused due to bacterial infection, parasites, or may be prompted from other infectious diseases. It is a non-communicable disease.

What is Japanese encephalitis?

One of the most common form of viral encephalitis in Asia is the Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV), caused by mosquito-borne flavivirus. The disease belong to the same genus as dengue, yellow and West Nile viruses.

JEV primarily affects children as most adults tend to attain natural immunity from the disease, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

gorakhpur children's death, Yogi Adityanath, Uttar Pradesh, gorakhpur, gorakhpur school children death, UP childrens death, Gorakahpur hospital, UP news, india news, indian express news At least 60 children have lost their lives in the last five-days at the state-run Baba Raghav Das Medical College Hospital in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh. (Express Photo Vishal Srivastav)

The disease usually shows mild symptoms such as fever and headache. In about 1 out of 250 cases, the disease takes a bad turn accompanied by sudden high fever, headache, stiffness, disorientation, coma and seizures. The fatality rate for patients showing symptoms is approximately 30 per cent.

What are the treatments available?

Almost every type of encephalitis shows similar systems, although it is difficult for doctors to determine through clinical features the cause of the onset of disease. When diagnosing the disease, the doctors aim to determine whether it is caused due to viral infections or any other factor.

According to an NYT report, the viral forms of encephalitis are not treatable and doctors usually try to cure the symptoms being caused by the disease via medications. Reducing the fever down and ease the pressure caused by the swelling of the brain are highly important when treating a patient suffering from the disease. NHS UK says doctors often prescribe steroid injections, antibiotics or painkillers based on the cause.

How can the disease be prevented?

There are several vaccinations that are effective in preventing the disease, including vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella. In areas known to have mosquitoes carrying encephalitis-causing viruses, one must carry mosquito repellent ointments and apply it especially while going out. People should also use proper clothing to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes in mosquito-infested areas.

gorakhpur tragedy, what is encephalitis, encephalitis, japanese encephalitis, encephalitis causes, encephalitis cures, encephalitis disease, encephalitis symptoms Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are two states, which have seen the most number of encephalitis cases in recent years. (Express Photo Vishal Srivastav)

Is the disease prevalent in India? How severe is it?

Japanese Encephalitis is recognised as the leading cause of the disease in India. According to a report by Indian Council of Medical Research, JEV was first recognised in 1955 in the country, when cases of encephalitis were reported in North Arcat district of Tamil Nadu. The report further states that since 1972, the disease has spread to newer regions including West Bengal, Uttar Praesh, Assam, Bihar, Manipur, Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Pondicherry and Karnataka.

While the age group of people affected by the disease in southern areas remain children below 16 years of age, in North India, citizens of all age group are affected. In 2012, at least 272 cases of the disease were reported in Odisha, including 24 deaths. By 2014, at least 550 cases of deaths due to encephalitis were reported in the country. At least 102 people died in West Bengal and 43 deaths were reported in Assam in 2014.

Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are two states, which have seen the most number of encephalitis cases in recent years. The Uttar Pradesh government in May this year launched a vaccination campaign in 38 sensitive districts of the state to combat the JE virus.

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  1. A
    ancy t pandithitta
    Aug 14, 2017 at 4:53 pm
    No use of blaming the govt. Take immediate action
    Reply
    1. S
      Syed Viqar Uddin Hussain
      Aug 14, 2017 at 2:27 pm
      The government should control encephalitis by keeping pigs away from residential areas. The concerned Panchayats and Muni l corporations should keep the areas clean and tidy. We have to protect our children and this can happen only by educating the people on keeping the surroundings clean.
      Reply
      1. A
        Ashutosh Mahajan
        Aug 13, 2017 at 9:32 pm
        Bacteria, Virus and other Parasites can cross 'Blood Brain Barrier' in case of Children and Older people very easily. It depends on the host's immunity also. In world surprisingly approximately 40 people are suffering from some sort of Meninges Inflammation caused by Autoimmune diseases, Bacteria, Virus and other Parasites. Our brain has its own immune system to fight these infections, in the form of Head Lymphatic System. But due to the emergence of drug resistant superbugs allopathic treatment fails in many cases. Applying Antimicrobial oil like Neem Oil, Chalmungra Oil, Nirgundi oil, Eucalyptus Oil, etc on bald scalp and Backbone skin can cure these diseases successfully. Vitamin-C plays a very important role in the immunity of brain and fighting the germs.
        Reply
        1. S
          Sushovan
          Aug 13, 2017 at 4:13 pm
          What about autoimmune encephalitis? Today a doctor from westbenga died due to encephalitis, caused unknown. He was govt doctor, but no one bothered his illness including govt.
          Reply
          1. G
            George Cruz
            Aug 12, 2017 at 8:44 pm
            The truth is that the congress party ruled the country for the last 70 years with socialistic/communistic policies, never cared for development of the country nor its people, looted the country's wealth, divided the Indian citizens based on the religion/caste favoring Muslims and converted Christians for vote bank politics. The congress party left millions more people in poverty/des ution, When the BJP came to power 3 years ago they initiated the "Swatch Bharath" campaign and its some time for the people to adopt it.
            Reply
            1. B
              Biplav
              Aug 12, 2017 at 7:29 pm
              This is a hastily put together summary. See a more detailed perspective and reports from an NGO engaged on the ground: : appltrust /projects/je-projects.htm JE/AES is an easily fixable disease if there is will. Many are doing there bit, but the biggest player, government and especially its bureaucracy that acts on the ground, has been not up to the task. Long due that someone knowledgeable take accountability and fix it.
              Reply
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                1. P
                  Pradeep Raghavan
                  Aug 12, 2017 at 12:00 pm
                  No Comments from Bhakts' side yet. Now they will either blame Congress for 70 years rule or they will Akhilesh Yadav
                  Reply
                  1. K
                    Kishor
                    Aug 12, 2017 at 3:16 pm
                    This is our misfortune in our country ... immediately blame the ruling Govt. and Govt immediately orders magistrate inquiry and The magistrate sets up commission and commission asks for monetary commission.... then it leads to CBI..NIA....and ultimately no end will be there... Any way you are the first person to blame BJP and hope the CM/DM/Health Minister will resign based on your wording.
                    Reply
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                        Aug 12, 2017 at 7:07 pm
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                        1. G
                          George Cruz
                          Aug 12, 2017 at 8:42 pm
                          Yes, the congress party ruled the country for the last 70 years with socialistic/communistic policies, never cared for development of the country nor its people, looted the country's wealth, divided the Indian citizens based on the religion/caste favoring Muslims and converted Christians for vote bank politics. The congress party left millions more people in poverty/des ution, When the BJP came to power 3 years ago they initiated the "Swatch Bharath" campaign and its some time for the people to adopt it.
                          Reply
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