The dance of death continues in the eastern districts (Purvanchal region) of Uttar Pradesh. The dreaded acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) has so far killed 199. The victims are mostly children and people below the poverty line.

This comes at a time when the Japanese Encephalitis (JE) appears to have been contained by the SA-14-14-2 vaccine imported from China.

Threat perception

The threat perception of the AES is more serious owing to the nature of its virus and the fact that it has not been identified. In many cases, the disease was identified after the patient died. What is known is that the AES virus is water-borne and enters the victim’s body through the faecal route. Research to isolate the virus is underway at the Viral Research Centre of the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, which has been set up in the BRD Medical College, Gorakhpur.

According to medical experts, it will take two to three years to produce the vaccine after the virus has been identified.

Since the beginning of this year, 876 cases of AES have been reported, of which 199 have succumbed to the disease. In contrast, JE accounted for 40 cases of which four died. Twenty nine fresh AES cases were reported on Monday of which four died. They belonged to Siddhartnagar, Sant Kabir Nagar, Kushinagar and Maharajganj districts of eastern Uttar Pradesh. No fresh JE cases were reported on Monday.

Unlike the JE, the AES strikes at any time of the year. “The disease can attack the victims both in the cold winter and hot summer months,” said R.K. Khanna, Project Director, Disaster Management, at the State Health Directorate in Lucknow. He said there was a direct correlation between the AES and the nutritional status and the poverty of the victims.

Experts at the BRD Medical College too have concluded that incidence of the dreaded disease was linked to the backwardness of the Purvanchal region.

Death toll alarmingly high

Efforts are on to “identify” the people afflicted by the disease simply because the death toll is alarmingly high. “Though we don’t want to miss out on any patient, it is possible that the victims may have died due to meningitis or malaria. The death may not have been on account of AES alone,” Rakesh Saxena, Principal of BRD Medical College, told The Hindu from Gorakhur.

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