Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Battling encephalitis with hope...and homeopathy

Read and weep! These poor people with their children.... How many will needlessly die because quackery like homeopathy is allowed? Why isn't this quack sitting in jail?

Battling encephalitis with hope...and homeopathy
Sunday September 11 2005 00:00 IST

KUSHINAGAR: Many desperate women trudge along the highway to take their children to a homeopath's camp near this Buddhist pilgrims town, 40 km away from the epicenter of a raging encephalitis epidemic.

A closer look reveals that the worried folk have made a beeline for the camp in a crowded market place in Hata Bazar town, 20 km from this Buddhist pilgrimage centre, as it claims to have a preventive medicine against Japanese encephalitis, a particularly virulent form of the disease that causes inflammation in the brain and has taken over 650 lives in this area close to the country's border with Nepal.

On a hot and humid afternoon, a long queue of people with tiny tots in tow has formed there. The scene is unusual. But when the state administration has failed miserably, hapless people will do whatever it takes to keep their hopes alive.

With the epidemic having ensnared 22 districts since it broke out at the end of July, the fear of death stalks every household in these parts.

Anyone offering a solution is much sought after - as was visible from the overflowing numbers at the narrow lane leading to the homeopath's camp.

"The doctor is giving us drops that will save our kids from the dangerous brain fever (that is how the disease is locally referred)," Kusuma, who had walked 10 km from her village carrying her infant daughter Leela and two sons aged five and seven, told an IANS correspondent.

The fear of possible after effects even if a victim survives - mental retardation, partial or total paraplegia, involuntary movements and even nerve palsies - is very real.

Riaz and his wife Kanzeena had been waiting for two hours for their turn. "We have brought both our children; this doctor is a godsend. At least we will not have the sword of brain fever hanging over our necks," Riaz told IANS.

C. Shekhar, the homeopath who has offered his services, claims: "Yes, three doses of homeopathic drugs, rhus tox and belladona, will keep the kids safe from Japanese encephalitis."

"Homeopathy believes in symptomatic treatment and we tried it successfully last year also."

Local Traders Association president S.P. Verma, who had helped get space and manpower for the camp, agreed.

"This is the least we can do as a representative body of traders in this small town. After all there is total absence of any kind of preventive measures on the part of the government," he alleged.

Refuting official claims, he said: "Fogging and spraying of mosquito repellents has not been carried out for years even though everyone knows that mosquitoes are the root virus."

The unavailability of vaccines, largely on account of official apathy and red-tape, is no secret.

"The state's health administration wakes up to the need for vaccines only when the disease has already broken out. And that is not the time when it will work," says K.P. Kushwaha, senior paediatrician and in-charge of the special encephalitis unit at the region's leading hospital, Gorakhpur Medical College, about 40 km away.

The hospital has so far received more than 1,600 patients of which about 463 have died and nearly 300 are still huddled in jam-packed wards.

The homeopathy camp at Hata Bazar also continues to draw crowds till the medicines get exhausted. But it doesn't deter people from waiting for another round, even though camp organisers are not sure how long it will take to replenish their stocks from Gorakhpur.


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