Short Note – Child Diseases (AES & JE)

The states of UP and Bihar are densely populated, lack sufficient resources, roads, and medical facilities. The problems are compounded by medical ailments that are unique to these regions and majorly, affect children. Two of these diseases are Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) and Japanese Encephalitis (JE). The JE is a sub-variant of the AES.

Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) is a neurologic manifestation caused by several different pathogens and chemical/ toxins etc.

The AES outbreaks in the north and eastern India have been linked to children eating unripe litchi fruit on empty stomachs. These unripe fruit contain the toxins hypoglycin A and methylenecyclopropylglycine (MCPG), which will cause vomiting if eaten in large quantities.

Hypoglycin A is a naturally occurring amino acid found in the unripened litchi that causes severe vomiting (Jamaican vomiting sickness), while MCPG is a poisonous compound found in litchi seeds that causes a sudden drop in blood sugar, vomiting, altered mental states leading to lethargy, unconsciousness, coma, and death.

These toxins cause sudden high fever and seizures serious enough to require hospitalization in young, severely malnourished children.

The AES is common in children living near litchi orchards.

The JE outbreak usually coincides with the monsoon and post-monsoon period since the density of mosquitoes increases.

They predominately affect children under the age of 15.

All the endemic States except Assam start reporting JE cases from July onwards attaining a peak in September-October. In Assam, the cases appear from February and attain a peak in the month of July.

Why this is important?

UP and Bihar were ranked the lowest in NITI Ayog’s Health Report. It is imperative that the state governments and the central government chalk down a strategy for improving healthcare services to the people living in these regions. Most of the deaths have been of underage children and these deaths have caused a huge outcry in the national and international media.

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