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Encephalitis claims 22 more lives in Uttar Pradesh

mosquitoWith another 22 deaths due to encephalitis in the past five days in Gorakhpur, the Uttar Pradesh government on Wednesday cancelled the leave of all doctors and paramedical staff, an official said.

This has been done to ensure that the health department is present in full strength to attend to the growing number of patients, the health department official said.

Officials also said the number of encephallitis-related deaths in the region were more or less the same as compared with the previous year, but there was a spurt in their numbers post the Phallin cyclone in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh coastal regions, which also led to heavy and continued rainfall in Gorakhpur and neighbouring regions.

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There were around 100 deaths due to the killer disease in October alone.

Officials also admit that the government's efforts to contain the disease have failed, resulting in the death of hundreds of people in the past few years. Seven districts of the region are severely affected with the encephallitis strain.

What is encephalitis?

Encephalitis is a disease that results in inflammation of the brain. The patient's central nervous system is affected. While the lesser symptoms include headaches and fevers, the more severe ones cause the onset of mental issues like seizures, confusion, disorientation, tremors and hallucinations. It can be caused due to bacterial or viral infections of the brain, injection of toxic substances or increased complications of an infectious disease. Japanese Encephalitis is a mosquito-borne viral form of encephalitis. Mortality is usually high among children. About 0.4% JE advances to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES), a severe case of the disease characterised by inflammation of the brain. The effect on the patient's central nervous system results in fever and/or sudden onset of mental symptoms like seizures, confusion, disorientation, etc. It can be caused due to bacterial or viral infections of the brain, toxic substances or increased complications of an infectious disease. (Read more..)

Why is UP the most affected?

Even though, it's a disease that affects people throughout the country- people living in Gorakhpur and adjoining areas near the Nepal border are susceptible to floods. These floods then provide a good breeding ground for the mosquitoes to stay and spread the disease.

How can we prevent it?

Even though there is no cure for the disease, there is a preventive vaccine. Just last week, health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had launched an indigenous vaccine for Japanese encephalitis.

There was a mass vaccination program in 2006, but it was largely unsuccessful as only 35% of the children could be immunized. For the next three years there was no mass vaccination program. The government records show that the number of deaths due to Japanese encephalitis is declining, but other strains of the virus are increasing and the yearly death toll has become a regular occurring.

With inputs from IANS

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