Encephalitis killer of Children
Viral encephalitis has killed hundreds of children in Uttar Pradesh over the
last decade. In India nearly 6,000 children have died of encephalitis in the hospital since
the first case was detected in 1978. In 2011 alone more than
500 people, mainly children, have died in an outbreak of viral `encephalitis in northern India, health officials say.
So far 2,300 patients have been admitted to a hospital in the affected Gorakhpur area of Uttar Pradesh state.
Most of the deaths happened between August and September, according to
K.P. Kushwaha, chief pediatrician at BRD Medical College and Nehru Hospital in Uttar Pradesh state's Gorakhpur district.
In 2009, India reported 774 fatalities from encephalitis, including 556 in Uttar Pradesh, federal data shows.
CNN-IBN on October 9, 2011 reported 500 children have died of
encephalitis in eastern UP in the last two months. Rs 2500 crore have been sanctioned under the
National Rural Mission this year for UP out of which Rs 5 crore is specifically for encephalitis. He added that the state needs to play a
more active role in containing the killer virus.
Until 2005, the majority of deaths were caused by Japanese encephalitis,
caused by a mosquito-borne virus, doctors say. But in the past six years, children have been dying of viral
encephalitis, a water-borne disease caused by contaminated water. Doctors say children between the age of six months to 15 years are
worst affected and most of the victims are poor people from rural areas.
Children are most affected because they have lower immunity and they
end up consuming a lot of contaminated water at home.
The encephalitis outbreak in Gorakhpur (UP) has attracted national and
international attention - scientists from US-based Centers for Disease
Control visited the area in 2009, and took away medical samples to examine the virus.
What is Encephalitis
Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain. There are many types of
encephalitis, most of which are caused by infections. In addition to infections,
encephalitis can also be caused by certain diseases that result in an inflammation of the brain.
Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes (called meninges) that
surround the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis may be caused by many
different viruses and bacteria. It can also be caused by diseases that
can trigger inflammation of tissues of the body without infection (such
as systemic lupus erythematosus and Behcet's disease.
Encephalitis is most often caused by a viral infection. Many types of
viruses may cause it. Exposure to viruses can occur through:
*Breathing in respiratory droplets from an infected person
*Contaminated food or drink
*Mosquito, tick, and other insect bites
Encephalitis caused by the herpes simplex virus is the leading cause of
more severe cases in all ages, including newborns. A number of viruses for which there is now a vaccine may also cause
encephalitis. These include: Measles, Mumps, Polio, Rabies, Rubella, Varicella
Other viruses that cause encephalitis include: Adenovirus, Coxsackievirus,
Cytomegalovirus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus, Echovirus and West Nile virus
The virus causes inflammation of brain tissue. The brain tissue swells
(cerebral edema), which may destroy nerve cells, cause bleeding in the brain
(intracerebral hemorrhage), and brain damage. Other causes of encephalitis may include: An allergic reaction to vaccinations
, Autoimmune disease, Bacteria, such as Lyme disease ,syphilis, and tuberculosis
In a case of encephalitis is not very severe, the symptoms may be
similar to those of other illnesses, including: mild Fever, Mild headache, weakness and a poor appetite,
Clumsiness, unsteady gait Drowsiness, Irritability or poor temper control, Stiff neck and back and Vomiting.
Emergency symptoms includes Loss of consciousness , poor responsiveness, stupor, coma
,Muscle weakness or paralysis, Seizures , Severe headache, Sudden change in mental functions and Memory loss (amnesia)
Anyone experiencing symptoms of encephalitis should see a doctor immediately.
The doctor diagnoses encephalitis or meningitis after
a completing a thorough history and examination. The examination includes special
maneuvers to detect signs of inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord
(meninges). Based on the examination, the doctor suggests specific tests to further help in determining the diagnosis.
Tests used in the evaluation of individuals suspected of having encephalitis or meningitis include evaluation of the blood for signs of
infection and possible presence of bacteria, brain scanning (such as CT
scanning or MRI scan, and cerebrospinal fluid analysis. A lumbar puncture is the most common method of obtaining a sample of the fluid in the spinal canal
(the cerebrospinal fluid or CSF) for examination.
The diagnosis is confirmed by abnormal spinal fluid results and, in the
case of an infection, by identifying the organism causing the infection.
In patients with meningitis, the CSF fluid often has a low glucose (sugar) level and increased white blood cell count.
Doctors suggests antibiotic and/or antiviral medications urgently when the diagnosis of encephalitis or meningitis is
detected. In some cases , anticonvulsants are used to prevent or treat seizures.
Sometimes corticosteroids are administered to reduce brain swelling and inflammation. Sedatives may be needed for irritability or restlessness.
Additional medications might be used to decrease the fever or treat headaches. The need for hospitalization usually depends on the type of
meningitis the patient has and the severity of symptoms.
If brain function is severely affected, interventions like physical therapy and speech therapy may be needed after the illness is controlled.
* Children and adults should avoid contact with anyone who has encephalitis.
* Controlling mosquitoes (a mosquito bite can transmit some viruses) may reduce the chance of some infections that can lead to encephalitis.
* Apply an insect repellant containing the chemical, DEET when you go outside
* Remove any sources of standing water (such as old tires, cans, gutters, and wading pools).
* Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when outside, particularly at dusk.
* A vaccination to prevent a form of viral encephalitis that often affects people living in dorms or in the military