Via NDTV: In Jalpaiguri, Negligible Government Help for Villagers in Encephalitis Zones. Excerpt:
Jalpaiguri: An outbreak of Japanese encephalitis and suspected encephalitis in North Bengal has claimed over 100 lives in seven districts, with the majority deaths coming in the last fortnight. The government has said it has stepped up measures to control the spread of the disease.
But settlements like the Haricharan Bihta village in North Bengal's Jalpaiguri district are examples of how the government's measures to tackle encephalitis may not be working. A lot of these people for instance prefer going to private doctors as they say government doctors are mostly unavailable at primary health care centres.
14-year-old Farooq Hussain has high fever for the last 10 days that has not gone away. His grandfather Fazlur Rehman died of Encephalitis just a few days ago and yet Farooq and the elders at the village say they prefer taking affected people here to private clinics.
"The doctors at government facilities are mostly absent. They are never around," Farooq said.
While a lot of this may also have to do with ignorance and a distrust of the government system, villagers also point out that nothing has been done in the area to spread awareness. No one here, for instance, has heard of the government's latest initiative called fever clinics, proposed to be set up in encephalitis affected areas across North Bengal.
As many as 15 people in just this village had symptoms of encephalitis when we visited.
At the healthcare centre closest to the village, and the entire Binaguri panchayat , there are no doctors, and is currently manned by a single nurse under the National Rural Healthcare mission, who mostly takes care of pregnancies, and was on duty when we visited.
Swarnali Dasgupta, the auxillary nurse in charge, tells us, "If people come here with symptoms of encephalitis, we give medicines for three days. If that doesn't work we do a blood test and refer people to a bigger hospital."
On this subject, Deutsche Welle has a good background article on India's encephalitis outbreak: the key facts.