Encephalitis is slowly spreading in UP and causing more deaths especially in children. 11 more deaths were reported from Gorakhpur. The toll caused by the rapidly spreading killer virus in the state has gone up to 131.
While the disease was so far confined largely to Gorakhpur and neighboring Maharajganj and Kushinagar districts, it has now spread to not only nearby Bahraich, Barabanki and Lakhimpur-Kheri districts but also to Varanasi, Sitapur and Rae Bareli located far away.
The special encephalitis unit created at the Gorakhpur Medical College is finding it hard to cope with the needs of the rising number of patients. Despite pumping in all available resources, medical experts are unable to curb the deaths.
As against 128 beds earmarked for encephalitis patients in the medical college at Gorakhpur, there were no less than 170-180 patients over the past few days. The hospital said it had no choice but to place patients two to a bed or even on the floor.
K.P. Kushwaha, in-charge of the encephalitis unit at Gorakhpur, said: "It's strange that the government has failed to declare encephalitis an epidemic, even though it has been striking eastern Uttar Pradesh for 27 years."
Referring to the number of deaths, he said: "The mortality is not unusual as even in countries like Japan, China, Thailand and Indonesia, where the disease is prevalent, it takes a toll of about 20-40 percent."
He said, however, there was a difference - "unlike those countries, there is a total absence of any kind of preventive measures here".
According to Kushwaha: "There is no system of immunisation against encephalitis, even though its vaccine is manufactured in India."
However, according to sources in the state health headquarters here, poor demand for the vaccine had forced India's only manufacturing unit at Kasauli in Himachal Pradesh to reduce production.
The Indian vaccine is priced Rs.60 a vial, against the imported vaccine's cost of Rs.150-200.
Top government officials declined to comment on the issue.
"Right now we are grappling with the serious issue of deaths, we will look into the immunisation aspect later," said Uttar Pradesh Health Minister Jaiveer Singh.
"We have already taken punitive action against doctors and pharmacists who failed to rise to the occasion in handling the disease."