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Health care a cause of worry!

Posted in Featured, View Point

Published on June 30, 2019 with No Comments

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children,” Nelson Mandela had said, and his quote finds even more relevance in India today. Heart wrenching scenes on the outbreak of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in India’s Bihar that has claimed the lives of at least ???? children, ??of them over the past fortnight, have shook the world, but not the authorities in India.  Scores of children suffering from the disease are said to be in critical condition and under treatment. Over ???? cases of AES have been reported from 11 districts in Bihar, and Muzaffarpur district seems to be the worst-hit. AES is a group of clinically similar neurological manifestations caused by several different viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites, parasites and chemical/ toxins. Japanese Encephalitis, which is a variant of AES, is the most common in India. AES is a serious public health concern in the country. Outbreaks usually coincide with summer and the onset of monsoon, that brings along a host of other diseases and thus making the diagnosis even more difficult.  It strikes children and young adults most often, especially those who are severely malnourished.

The large number of children who die annually in India from AES is of grave concern. In 2005, for instance, hundreds of children died of AES in Uttar Pradesh, and in 2014, 196 deaths from AES were recorded in Bihar. When and where AES outbreaks happens is known to the authorities and scores of children lost their lives annually. The district that get affected are also known, however still the authorities repeatedly fail to take any proactive action.
A part of the problem is that health authorities in India are more concentrating  on denying and downplaying the magnitude of the problem than on dealing with it, till it assumes a destructive proposition. The state government led by Nitish Kumar not only presented the figure that were grossly understated, but also claimed that the death were not due to AES but hypoglycaemia. To add insult to the injury the health minister of Bihar has blamed the recently concluded elections and the Election Commission for this.  He said that government officials were on election duty, hence were not available for the AES awareness drive. However, he needed to be reminded that no such drive has been conducted for last three years.

The overworked doctors reminded the government of how understaffed they were. The hospital too lacked infrastructure to handle a large number of patients. But the government remained a mute spectator. An All India Institute of Medical Sciences was approved for Bihar as an emergency measure when the city of Muzzarfpur was badly hit with encephalitis in 2014. And not a brick has moved over the last five years as both the Chief Ministers and a local Member of Legislator were involved in a feud over the site for the Institute. One can only assume, some lives could have been saved, had the leaders acted for getting the medical institute operational in the state. But that is sorry state of affairs in India. Governments have been according a low priority to the public health issues, specially when it affects the poor and malnourished. And such a attitude leaves a lot to worry.


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