New Delhi: With rising Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) related deaths in Bihar, major government hospitals in Gorakhpur and Maharajganj in Uttar Pradesh have been put on high alert to deal with any exigency that may arise during the monsoon season.
According to officials, additional doctors and staff have been deployed and have been asked to be on 24X7 alert at the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU). In 2017, during the monsoon season, over 62 children died due to encephalitis at Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Medical College in Gorakhpur, while 52 patients of AES were admitted in Maharajganj district, of which eight had died last year.
According to media reports, till June 17, over 103 deaths of children have taken place due to AES in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district.
Vivek Srivastava, the nodal officer of communicable diseases at Maharajganj, was quoted as saying on a local news website that there was a sudden increase in the number of AES patients in Bihar which could affect Mahrajganj and Gorakhpur, too, and to deal with AES and Japanese Encephalitis (JE), the hospitals had been put on high alert.
The challenge of tackling the child-health crisis could be daunting, as a large number of encephalitis cases are being reported from five large districts, namely Gorakhpur, Kushinagar, Deoria, Sant Kabir Nagar, Basti and Mahrajganj.
Speaking to Newsclick over the situation of encephalitis in Gorakhpur region, Dr. Kafeel Khan, the pediatrician who had been suspended in 2017 over the death of 62 children in BRD Hospital, alleged that the Adityanath government’s claims that it had curtailed the spread of encephalitis, was far removed from the ground reality.
He alleged that the UP government had chosen to ‘manipulate’ the data to cover up its administrative failure. First, they do not release daily admission and mortality data which Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Gorakhpur used to release to the media every day before BRD oxygen tragedy, he said, citing instances of redistribution of encephalitis patients to satellite centres (without proper manpower and necessary equipment) and referring such cases to Lucknow and Varanasi so that number of admissions at BRD could be shown less. He said that was why even after claim of so much improvement, the mortality rate remains the same (25%) in BRD.
Read More: https://www.newsclick.in/brd-hospital-deaths-come-back-haunt-yogi-adityanath-government
"There is a 10-fold increase in encephalitis cases in Lucknow and by giving a new diagnostic term of "acute febrile illness" or "acute viral fever" to encephalitis patients, data of these patients is not being released. The doctors are refusing admission at BRD NICU," Khan further alleged.
Meanwhile, BRD Principal Ganesh Kumar refused to comment on the issue. "Yes, Gorakhpur region is on high alert every month and patient of AES/JE come every month but this season it is less as compare to 2017," he said and disconnected the call.
DECREASE DEATHS DUE TO AES/JE?
According to the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP), the number of deaths due to AES and JE have decreased in the past two years. The data suggest that 4,724 AES cases were reported in 2017, and 621 had died, while 693 JE cases were reported, which killed 93 people in the same year. In 2018, as many as 3,080 AES cases and 230 deaths were reported. In the same year, 323 JE cases, and 25 deaths due to the disease, were reported.
However, a former BRD employee disagreed with the NVBDCP data. "Children have been dying due to AES/JE on a daily basis at BRD Medical College but the doctors are not reporting the deaths as they are under government pressure. If children are reported dying from encephalitis, BRD will again draw controversy. Who will be held accountable? This is why doctors are not taking any risk this time and are not taking so many cases of AES/JE,” he claimed.
He alleged that after the BRD Medical College incident wherein close to 60 infants had died in August 2017, created a national uproar, not a single doctor could write on paper that the children died due to encephalitis. “They actually changed the disease (AES/JE) name with Acute Febrile Illness (AFI) and pneumonia,” he alleged.