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Docs on guard to foil epidemic

Till Wednesday, 16 cases of suspected acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) have reached Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH).

Sources at PMCH said cases have poured in from different districts, among them Vaishali, Lakhisarai, Jehanabad, Muzaffarpur and Patna. The city of Patna accounts for only one case so far.

“We have not declared an epidemic because only 16 cases have been reported so far and those too have come from different places, and not a single place. Of the 16 cases that have come to PMCH, there is only one case from Patna (city). So far we have not got any case from Muzaffarpur. The suspected encephalitis patients of Muzaffarpur are availing treatment in their city itself,” said Nigam Prakash Narayan, a doctor in the paediatrics department of PMCH, who is also looking after the patients of the encephalitis ward formed by his department.

The Union health ministry has already asked all hospitals in vulnerable districts to prepare dedicated beds for encephalitis victims. The ministry has also provided 100 ventilators — used in the treatment of patients with the brain infection — for a special intensive care unit for encephalitis patients.

Public health surveillance data suggests that Japanese encephalitis — an infection caused by a virus spread through mosquito bites — accounts for only about 10 per cent of the deaths from encephalitis. Acute encephalitis syndrome appears to account for the rest of the deaths. Some health experts have said it is caused by waterborne viruses, but its cause is yet to be clearly established.

PMCH said it was ready to combat the summer scourge. Hospital superintendent Dr Lakhendra Prasad said: “We have created a separate ward for encephalitis in the building housing the paediatrics department. We have installed an air-conditioner so that patients admitted in the encephalitis ward are more comfortable. Besides, we have stocked up all the medicines, including paracetamol and intravenous (IV) fluid required for encephalitis patients. While paracetamol is given to encephalitis patients to control their fever, IV fluid is given to control seizures. Doctors have been made available round-the-clock in the encephalitis ward. The required pathological tests are also available at the hospital. So we don’t think we would face any problem.”

The civil surgeon’s office has also sprung into action. Prashant Kumar, epidemic controller, civil surgeon office, said: “We have asked the medical officer in-charge of the primary health centres to keep a tab on cases of encephalitis. We have also asked nursing homes to follow suit and inform us if they find any case. Also, we have made free ambulance arrangement for encephalitis patients. One has to dial either 108 or 1099 to avail of the ambulance services. Doctors have been advised to write about the symptoms of patients carefully so that their colleagues in the subsequent shifts don’t face any problem in treatment.”


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