With less than half the number of cases of encephalitis reported last year,the health scene in eastern Uttar Pradesh is looking up this year. The disease,which has killed over 4,000 people in the state in the last eight years,most of them children,is on the decline this year.
According to the state Health Department,until July 20,the 13 encephalitis-hit districts of eastern UP had reported 284 cases of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) while last year,by this time,the number of cases had scaled up to 607. Even the deaths resulting from AES have dropped from 113 last year to 72 this year.
Moreover,there has not been a single case of Japanese Encephalitis (JE),a more virulent strain of encephalitis,up until now.
This is a good sign. It seems that the number of cases will be less this year, said Dr K P Kushwaha,head of Department of Pediatrics at BRD Medical College,Gorakhpur,which is the highest medical facility in the region treating the maximum number of encephalitis patients.
The worst-affected districts this year have been Kushinagar with 68 cases and 16 deaths so far,Deoria with 59 cases and 15 deaths,Gorakhpur with 49 patients and 18 deaths and Maharajganj with 40 cases and seven deaths.
Kushwaha credited the awareness created by the media and the government for the protection against the disease. People are more aware of the disease now and rush their patients to a medical facility as soon as possible, he said.
Experts also caution against expecting too much too soon. The cases of encephalitis have not increased so far but it is still early to predict anything. The actual condition would be clear by next month or so,which is the peak period for encephalitis. So it is a wait and watch situation, said Dr M M Gore,in charge of Gorakhpur unit of National Institute of Virology at BRD Medical College.