| A patient at the paediatric intensive care unit of Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital in Muzaffarpur. Picture by Lokesh Bihari |
Muzaffarpur has decided to get rid of its perennial tryst with acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) by voting it out.
Such is the murmur for change at Salha and Maneka, two hamlets of Mushahri block — 15km from the township — once at the centre of Jayaprakash Narayan’s crusade to protect farmers in the 1970s.
“Hamlog khauf me jeete hain, jab jab garmi ka mausam aata hai. (We live in danger as soon as summer sets in). This time, Maneka voters will vote to change the MP, says middle-aged Rajballav Prasad who lost two daughters Ragni (7) and Roshni (5) to encephalitis last year. “Children in our society, particularly from poor families, die of encephalitis every year for want of proper treatment,” cried Jogi Sahni, 64, of Salha village.
Mohammad Ainul, a mason, says: “This time, we will vote for a candidate who promises to facilitate proper medical arrangement at hospitals to fight the disease.” In the last three or more years, encephalitis has claimed over 30 boys and girls from poor families in Maneka, Salha and other villages in summer. The rise in temperature apart, the arrival of birds and bats is of equal worry. Resident Awadesh Kumar says: “Medical teams from Delhi and scientists from National Centre for Disease Control, New Delhi, and the National Institute of Virology, Pune, that camped here last year had trapped birds, bats and wild rats to zero in on the root behind the lethal disease. Residents now keep their kids indoors and stop them from playing in the litchi orchards.
“Humlog ke beta-beti ke bimari se marne ke liya chor diya hai. (Our sons and daughters have been left to die of the disease),” cries Sandhiya Devi (50) of Maneka village.
Health activists are busy telling residents to stay away from affected boys and girls. Chief Medical Officer Dr Giyan Bhushan said the health department is working hard to lessen the misery. Quick Response Teams have been formed to admit children with encephalitis symptoms into government hospitals readily. Paediatric intensive care units have come up at Government Sadar Hospital, SKMCH and Kejriwal Maternity Clinic. Three suspected AES cases were noticed in April but investigations are on, said the CMO. Whether or not the residents are convinced will reflect in how they vote.
Muzaffarpur votes on May 7.