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Japanese Encephalitis case: 9-yr-old's kin struggling to pay mounting bills

Ashrita Iyengar (9) has been hospitalised for more than a month; her cost of treatment of Japanese Encephalitis has already accumulated to Rs 6.70 lakh

It has been a month since nine-year-old Ashrita Iyengar was hospitalised, suffering from symptoms of high fever, nausea, headaches and brain inflammation, and a fortnight since she was diagnosed with Japanese Encephalitis (JE), the city’s first patient in two years.

Nine-year-old Ashrita Iyengar was diagnosed with Japanese encephalitis in the beginning of the month
Nine-year-old Ashrita Iyengar was diagnosed with Japanese encephalitis in the beginning of the month

Despite the treatment by doctors at the Hinduja Hospital, the Kalina-resident continues to be on ventilator support. JE, which affects the central nervous system, has left the patient’s limbs paralysed and as her treatment continues, her family is worried how they will manage to pay off the extensive hospital bills.

“She has been on ventilator support from the first week of her hospitalisation when she was admitted to the ICU on August 9. While right now she has been shifted to the general ward, she still needs oxygen support and is not able to even open her eyes,” said Nagesh Iyengar, her father. Doctors are currently trying to take her off ventilator support to encourage mobility.

Ashrita is undergoing treatment under the supervision of Dr Vrajesh Udani, paediatric neurologist at the hospital. While initially, her blood samples, which were sent to the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune, did not detect the vector- borne disease, the second and third round of the tests came back positive for JE.

After Ashrita’s diagnosis, the BMC conducted fogging near her residence, Old Air India Colony, to prevent the disease from spreading. “During monsoon, we have to wade through knee-deep water on days when the area is flooded. However, we are still baffled how she got JE, as we never travelled to any part of Central India, where the disease is rampant.

We hope she will regain her mobility soon,” added Nagesh, who is struggling to pay the hospital bills, which currently total to Rs 6,70,000. The family has been paying portions of the expenses with the help of friends and relatives.

Doctor speak
Speaking to mid-day, Dr Udani said that doctors are trying to move Ashrita to a substitute of the ventilator. “She is responding well to the treatment. While the recovery will take some time, we are happy with the progress she is making.” According to experts, nearly one-third of patients diagnosed with JE end up with permanent paralysis due to neurological damage.

What is japanese encephalitis?
A water-borne disease, JE is a flavivirus related to dengue and yellow fever, and is spread by mosquitoes. So far, this year, it has claimed 388 lives in Assam, and currently has no cure.

Most infections are mild (headache and fever), or without apparent symptoms, but approximately 1 in 250 infections results in severe disease characterised by high fever, headache, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, seizures, spastic paralysis and death.

Want to help?
If you want to help the family in any way, contact Nagesh Iyengar on 9769055707

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