Three children from Howrah, Hooghly and Burdwan have been diagnosed with acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) in West Bengal. These are the first cases of AES in the state this year. This has rung alarm bells in the state health department at a time when the disease has claimed more than 150 lives in Bihar.
The last time West Bengal saw an AES outbreak was in 2014 when 212 children died in the northern part of the state.
The three children, diagnosed with AES, were admitted to Kolkata’s Institute of Child Health (ICH), three weeks ago. They are aged below 15, according to doctors.
One of the children, who hails from Howrah, has been put on ventilator, while the one hailing from Hooghly was discharged on Monday. Doctors at ICH clarified that these cases don’t indicate an outbreak.
“The boy from Hooghly was discharged today (Monday). The other boy is also recovering. The boy from Howrah is a bit serious. He is not responding to treatment,” said Dr Prabhas Prasun Giri, the paediatrician ICU-in-charge at ICH.
“Japanese encephalitis is very common. It can be prevented through vaccines. Mosquitoes too carry the virus. The virus may also travel through water. One way to prevent encephalitis is to drink clean water,” Dr Giri said.
“We are yet to identify the cause of the disease in these three patients. In most cases, we don’t get to know the reason. Even in western countries, 50-60 per cent cases go undetected. Fever, unconsciousness, convulsions, nerve paralysis and drowsiness are some of the symptoms of encephalitis. The nervous system gets affected. In some cases, the disease might result in some cognitive defect also,” said Dr Apurba Ghose, director of ICH. Dr Ghosh rubbished that consumption of raw lychees leads to AES.
The doctors warned that the summer-monsoon season can see more cases of encephalitis.
A senior health official said , “Hospitals have been alerted. There is nothing to panic.”
Encephalitis is characterised by high or no fever, vomiting and convulsions and can be life threatening if not detected early.
People, including children and the elderly, with a low immune system are prone to contract AES.
(Shriya Dasgupta is an intern with The Indian Express)