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Nov 17, 2011 at 11:49am IST

Gaya: Encephalitis claims 84 lives in 80 days

Gaya: More than a thousand children are feared to have been affected by the Japanese encephalitis in Bihar's Gaya district. One child has been dying everyday for the last three months in the district. This outbreak comes even as Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh battles against Viral encephalitis.

Shafina Khatun's world has come crashing down on her. Her 2-year old daughter succumbed to Japanese encephalitis, but she hasn't even had time to mourn her, as her son Rizwan is fighting for his life at the hospital. Encephalitis, or brain fever as it is called in Gaya, has already taken the lives of 84 children in the last 80 days at this hospital alone in Gaya. The collective figure could be much more alarming.

Each year, Japanese encephalitis takes hundreds of lives in 10 districts in central Bihar and Jharkhand including Jahanabad, Aurangabad, Chatra and a part of Patna.

The one thing that unites all families who are forced to live in slums with poor sanitation, is utter poverty. A majority of victims belong to the Musahar caste, a rat-eating community who breed pigs for a living.

Dr. AK Ravi, HoD, Pediatrics department, Magadh hospital, Gaya, said, "It's most common in poor people because of hygiene conditions and keeping pigs as pet animals."

In last 81 days, the killer disease encephalitis has claimed lives of 84 children in Gaya alone, and is still counting, leaving many families devastated. But the deaths have failed to wake up the state government's health department from its deep slumber, which has not only reacted late, but is still struggling to figure out the ways to contain this killer disease.

In hospitals it's the same old story with little infrastructure and barely functioning equipment. For the moment, a team of doctors and a batch of medicines have been rushed in from Patna, but for the 84 children of Gaya and their families, it's already too late.