Patna: The Nitish Kumar government has looked clueless in checking the death toll and spread of Japanese encephalitis in this North Bihar district and its neighbourhood.
Almost 100 children have died of Japanese encephalitis in Muzaffarpur district of Bihar. These all are the reported deaths, however, the local people claim the actual toll could be higher.
Currently, Bihar’s Muzaffarpur is at the epicentre of Japanese encephalitis but only a couple of years ago Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh was in the grip of this disease, which killed thousands of children over four decades.
When Yogi Adityanath government took over from Akhilesh Yadav, Japanese encephalitis was the biggest health challenge in eastern Uttar Pradesh in 2017.
More than 500 children had died of Japanese encephalitis that year in Gorakhpur and its neighbourhood. Altogether 14 districts of the region were in the grip of this disease.
In August 2017, many children admitted for treatment of Japanese encephalitis and acute encephalitis syndrome (AES), died at the BRD Hospital of Gorakhpur leading to the huge political furore.
Pushed against the wall, Yogi Adityanath government opted for desperate measures and launched Action Plan 2018 in collaboration of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Unicef for containing AES and Japanese encephalitis.
A massive vaccination drive was launched for Japanese encephalitis. A robust health and sanitation campaign was launched.
Early vaccination was pushed. Drive to segregate pigs from affected habitation was launched. Immediate response teams were put to work for fogging.
The information campaign was launched to convince parents not to let their kids sleep on mud floors, to use India Mark-2 water pipes or hand pump for drinking water and to immediately reach out to ambulance helpline 108 in case of any early symptoms.
These measures seem to have worked for Uttar Pradesh. The cases of Japanese encephalitis and AES have dropped by about two-thirds in 2018 compared to a year ago.
UP Health Minister Siddharth Nath Singh, in February this year, informed the Assembly that 187 deaths occurred due to Japanese encephalitis and AES in 2018 against 557 in 2017.
The total number of cases of Japanese encephalitis and AES dropped from 3,817 in 2018 to 2,043 in 2017 in the affected 14 districts.
The fewer number of patients of Japanese encephalitis and AES reaching hospitals meant that the doctors could take better care of those admitted resulting in a drop in mortality rate. While one in every seven patients of Japanese encephalitis and AES died in 2017, this came down to one in 11 last year.
Till February this year, no deaths due to Japanese encephalitis and AES were reported despite 35 cases in the region, the minister had told UP Assembly.