The dreaded “silent killer” —- encephalitis —- has once again struck Uttar Pradesh in a hard way with the state recording a 26.5 per cent rise in the cases so far compared to last year. To take stock of the efforts to contain the disease, minister of state for health Nitin Aggarwal is on a two-day visit to Basti and Gorakhpur districts, the epicentres of encephalitis in the state.
As per the data available with the government, 482 cases of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) were reported between January 1 and August 8 last year. Of these, 108 eventually died. This year, the figure has risen by 26.5 per cent to 610 cases for the corresponding period. The state has already recorded 140 deaths.
Also, while there were no Japanese Encephalitis (JE) cases reported as of August 8 in 2013, there have been 13 such cases this year, of whom three have died. Experts, though, say that the actual figures could be much higher as many cases go unreported.
Dr S P Singh Lohta, director (Communicable and Vector Borne Diseases) in the state health department said the government has set up Encephalitis Treatment Centres (ETC) in 100 primary health centres (PHC) and community health centres (CHC) in seven worse hit districts in Gorakhpur and Basti divisions. “Beginning July, we have trained the doctors and the nurses in these PHCs and CHCs on how to identify the disease and the subsequent course of action,” Singh said. Additionally, ‘108’ and ‘102’ ambulance services have also been attached with the ETCs and their staff has also been trained to handle encephalitis cases, he added.
Contacted, MoS Aggarwal told The Indian Express that “the CM too is concerned”. “Though we have been able to deal with the JE, AES is still an issue. During my visit, I will try to understand the causes behind its rise and check any laxity on part of any government official,” he added.
In UP, the AES cases had hovered around 3500 for nearly three years – 2010 (3540), 2011 (3492), 2012 (3484), before registering a drop in 2013 (3096), but are now on their way up this year.
A government official involved in monitoring the disease cautioned that the “spurt may be due to the mutation in virus, though research is still on.”