Encephalitis outbreak: Bihar government skipped awareness drive due to Lok Sabha polls

Due to AES awareness drive, in 2015 only 15 deaths were recorded. In 2016 and 2017, the figures were six and 12, respectively.

Published: 20th June 2019 07:56 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th June 2019 08:47 AM   |  A+A-

Children showing symptoms of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome AES being treated at Shri Krishna Medical College and hospital in Muzaffarpur. (Photo| PTI)

Express News Service

MUZAFFARPUR: A top Bihar health department official said the state government needs to be faulted for not launching an encephalitis awareness campaign just before June when most of the deaths due to AES have historically taken place.

Following 117 deaths in 2014, the Bihar government had mandated that health officials, in association with Asha and anganwadi workers, would launch an awareness drive in April-May every year, the health official said.

These officials are expected to go to villages in vulnerable districts to sensitise people on the use of oral rehydration salts (ORS) and paracetamol tablets to contain high fever among susceptible sections. This awareness drive brought results and in 2015, only 15 deaths were recorded. In 2016 and 2017, the figures were six and 12, respectively. This year, however, the official said the awareness campaign was given the miss because of the general election.

READ MORE | Bihar Encephalitis deaths: Toll reaches 115, AIIMS doctors rushed to Muzaffarpur hospital

SKMCH doctors said it would be unfair to blame them alone. One of them said in 2014, a 100-bed super-speciality hospital was promised but no such facility had come up till date. “In 2014, Harsh Vardhan was the Union health minister and he had visited SKMCH following 117 deaths. He announced a 100-bed super-speciality hospital and ICU beds for children suffering from AES. The project is yet to take off.”

Vardhan, who visited the hospital on Sunday, repeated the promise, adding that the new facility would be constructed within six months. “The paediatric ICU has a scarcity of beds and the facilities of other departments are used to shore up the infrastructure. Had a centralised, well-equipped centre been there, the deaths would not have happened,” a doctor said.

Medical Superintendent S K Shahi said SKMCH doctors had been doing their best to save the children. “We are very saddened... we are doing our best. The equipment is working fine,” Shahi said. 

‘More awareness needed, not equipment’

“We don’t really need more equipment. More awareness needs to be created to make sure children don’t go hungry. The heat and humidity is dangerous for malnourished children,” said S K Shahi, MS, SKMCH 

LS elections killed awareness drive
Each year since 2015, an awareness drive is held in April-May among susceptible sections on the use of ORS and paracetamol tablets to contain fever. Didn’t happen this year due to Lok Sabha polls

Toll drastically reduced since 2015
The intensive awareness drive in and around Muzaffarpur district in 2015 reduced AES deaths among children to 15, as compared to 117 in 2014. In 2016 and 2017, the figures were six and 12, respectively

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