Via The Times of India: Spurt in encephalitis cases before onset of the season. Excerpt:
ALLAHABAD: A short spell of rain has provided a breeding ground for culex, the encephalitis causing mosquito, just outside a hospital ward. Water in choked drains along the passage leading to the epidemic ward too is home to mosquitoes. Add to these the poor management of hospital waste. These factors are accompanied by the sight of helpless parents who crowd the hospital corridors. Welcome to Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Medical College, Gorakhpur -- the infamous encephalitis capital of India.
Once in a while, the wail of parents is heard. One of them is Sharda Devi, mourning the death of her child Vicky. The little one succumbed to encephalitis, the annual killer of children in eastern districts of Uttar Pradesh.
Bina Devi too was inconsolable, as her eight-month-old daughter Anu was critical. The child was rushed from a private nursing home in Maharajganj. "Anu could not breathe properly and her body was turning blue... she must be hungry as well," wept Bina Devi, the mother. She was trying to get in touch with her husband who works in Greater Noida.
In the next room was four-year-old Lucky who stared at the ceiling and could barely blink his eyes. Lucky's grandmother was patting his back to help him breathe. By his side lay Khurshid who was shivering in fever. The only son in this family from Sahjanwa, Khurshid fainted due to high fever three weeks ago and is yet to regain consciousness. Even as his mother Saira keeps praying for his recovery, tears rarely stop from her worried eyes.
Pre-seasonal spurt: Encephalitis normally breaks out in August-September and starts fading out by October. But for the past few years it arrives as early as January. This year, however, there has been a spurt in both the number of cases and casualties between January and June. In 2011, while 456 cases related to acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) were reported at BRD Medical College, 82 of those patients succumbed to the diseases. In the first six months this year, the college has already registered 601 cases and 125 deaths.
Figures also show that Gorakhpur has been the worst-hit followed by Kushinagar, Maharajganj, Deoria and Basti. The only silver lining is that the less number of cases of Japanese encephalitis (JE).
Experts at the Gorakhpur unit of National Institute of Virology give credit to the special vaccination drive against JE in 2010. Still as these children struggle for life, the hospital staff attend them with great patience.
"The season is yet to begin... Visit in August or September to see what encephalitis epidemic looks like," said a nurse on duty in a paediatric ward.