Hundreds of lives are claimed every year in various states of the country due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES). This year, the worst affected state is Bihar and more than 100 children between the age of 1 to 10 have died so far. In Muzaffarpur, a district in North Bihar, 83 children died in Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) and 17 more died in Kejriwal hospital. Sunil Kumar Shahi, Superintendent at SKMCH said, “Death toll due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in Muzaffarpur has risen to 100,”
AES is a viral disease and its symptoms include fever, convulsions, and headaches. Mostly underweight and malnourished children are affected due to AES. Majority of the children died due AES come from the poor socio-economic background.
The death from AES is not new in Northern Bihar and Eastern Uttar Pradesh. These regions are worst affected due to AES as they have the same climatic conditions under which the children are prone to AES. In 2012, 120 children had died due to AES in Bihar, the toll decreased to 39 in 2013 but again rose to 90 in 2014. The number again declined to 11 in 2015 and further declined to 4 in 2016, the number increased to 11 in 2017 and further decreased to 7 in 2018. The death increased manifolds in 2019 and reached to above 100 in the ongoing year. The Nitish Kumar government has looked clueless so far in tackling the menace.
Most of the deaths due to AES occur in the month of May, June and July. The malnourished children have less immunity and when they go outside in the sun and do not eat and drink properly, the chances of AES increases.
The elimination of AES is a priority for Nitish Kumar and he should evidently look to the neighbouring state of Uttar Pradesh. Uttar Pradesh is the state where Japanese Encephalitis took the lives of many children year after year until Yogi government put its foot down and managed to check the menace. In 2017, many children admitted in BRD Hospital of Gorakhpur had died and a total of more than 500 children died in 14 districts of Eastern UP.
Nitish Kumar must note that in 2018, the Yogi government had launched a massive ‘door to door’ DASTAK campaign against Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) and Japanise Encephalitis (JE) in order to wipe out deadly diseases from the state. DASTAK campaign is part of the Social and Behavioural Change Communication (SBCC) strategy incorporated by the Yogi government to completely eradicate encephalitis. As part of the campaign, the government along with UNICEF went door to door in 38 districts that were affected by the AES and Japanese Encephalitis. These districts fall in the Tarai region of the state that contributes to about 60 percent of the AES cases all over the country.
The newly elected Yogi government had collaborated with the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF to launch Action Plan 2018. The action plan included a massive vaccination drive and sanitation awareness programmes across the districts.
The areas where pigs live near human settlements are more likely to be affected by Japanese Encephalitis and therefore the Yogi government asked the people to segregate the pig settlements. The parents were asked to not let the kids play outside in the sun and sleep on mud floors. The families were also asked to use India Mark-2 water pipes and use clean drinking water. They were made aware of symptoms of Japanese Encephalitis and asked to call an ambulance if they notice any symptom.
The number of deaths registered in UP due to Japanese Encephalitis declined to one third to 187 in 2018 compared to 557 in 2017. The registered cases also declined to 2,043 in 2017 compared to 3,817 in 2018. In the ongoing year, only 35 cases of AES have been reported in 14 districts of Eastern UP so far and no death has been registered.
A big shout out to #UttarPradesh for immunizing every child in the state against Japanese Encephalitis and Acute Encephalitis Syndrome under the #Dastak campaign! ?#VaccinesWork for #DimagiBukharSeJung#EveryChildALIVE #WorldImmunizationWeek @CMOfficeUP @MoHFW_INDIA pic.twitter.com/4ww8aCdgOx
— UNICEF India (@UNICEFIndia) April 25, 2018
Last year, the UNICEF had lauded the efforts of the UP government and tweeted “A big shout out to #UttarPradesh for immunizing every child in the state against Japanese Encephalitis and Acute Encephalitis Syndrome under the #Dastak campaign! ??#VaccinesWork for #DimagiBukharSeJung.”
Nitish Kumar should learn from Yogi Government on how to solve the AES problem. He could even ask for the transfer of a few officials who played a crucial rule in solving the problem in UP.