How Uttar Pradesh tackled the encephalitis menace
Japanese encephalitis and acute encephalitis syndrome were major health challenges in eastern UP and poor health infrastructure proved to a serious handicap for the Yogi Adityanath government in 2017.
While Bihar struggles to contain acute encephalitis syndrome, the eastern part of neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, which has also been a problem area, has seen a significant improvement with an over 67% drop in deaths due to the disease in 14 most-affected districts.
Japanese encephalitis and acute encephalitis syndrome were major health challenges in eastern UP and poor health infrastructure proved to a serious handicap for the Yogi Adityanath government in 2017 when a spate of child deaths — not all related to the disease — rocked BRD medical college in August, 2017.
More than 500 children died that year in Gorakhpur and its neighbourhood with as many as 14 districts of the region in the grip of encephalitis. The state government launched Action Plan 2018 with a multi-pronged approach in collaboration with the WHO and Unicef to tackle the encephalitis menace.
In 2018, deaths due to AES dropped to 166 from 511 in 2017. The number of encephalitis cases reported in 14 districts of eastern UP also dropped from 2,247 in 2,017 to 1,047 cases last year. In 2019 so far, 20 deaths have been recorded from 82 cases, according to UP government data.
“The government worked on a plan and the results are for everyone to see,” says K K Gupta, director general of medical education and training in UP government. He said several measures included intensive vaccination and sanitation campaigns, improvements in health infrastructure and health resources (addition in beds and creation of more positions of nurses and paramedics apart from doctors.
Public health experts working in the region say Uttar Pradesh laid a lot of emphasis on early diagnosis and providing immediate care. In 2017, the UP government started a campaign against the disease involving multiple stakeholders. As a result, the outbreak of disease itself has decreased considerably in the last two years.