Gorakhpur 2017 Deaths: a 2019 review

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On 10th of August 2017, when I was the National President of Indian Medical Association a series of deaths occurred in the children ward suffering from acute encephalitis syndrome in Gorakhpur Medical College.

As per a report, a copy of which is with the undersigned, 23 children died on 10th August, 11 on 11th August and 11 on 12th August. The cause of death was stated to be non availability of oxygen in the children ward. An enquiry report done by the health department, a copy of which is with the undersigned, clearly says that there was non-availability of oxygen in the hospital for 52 hours on 11th and 12th August, 2017. The same has also been confirmed by an RTI.

What is not known is that on the same day on 10th August, 8 people died in the adult medicine ward and 10 died on 11th August in the same ward. This clearly indicates that the lack of oxygen was administrative problem and not the problem of the treating doctors.

Ever since the department has bifurcated acute encephalitis syndrome patients into classical AES patients and Acute Febrile Illness Patients AFI patients.

The recent ICMR  Regional Medical Research Centre Gorakhpur (RMRCGKP) data shows that out of 123 cases seen in August and October 67 were positive for typhus fever, 16 with dengue and 22 with Japanese encephalitis.

Out of 15, 63 patients of AFI till November 215 have been confirmed to Japanese encephalitis. Out of 492 cases of acute encephalitis syndrome only 116 have been confirmed to be JE.

The state government has a scheme of providing 50,000 to the family for a JE death and one lakh for JE disability.

The data and the government policy of dividing cases under AES and AFI needs to be reversed; as out of 1563 AFI patients the government missed 215 cases of JE, and they ended up not getting the JE treatment in time.

High incidence of typhus 67  out of 123 which is more than 50% of cases also raises an alarm that the 2017 epidemic and deaths might have been typhus fever which has a good prognosis with simple antibiotic doxycycline.

Every death of AES and AFI should be audited.

Dr KK Aggarwal

Padma Shri Awardee

President Confederation of Medical Associations in Asia and Oceania (CMAAO)

Group Editor-in-Chief IJCP Publications

President Heart Care Foundation of India

Past National President IMA