During the last nine days, over 50 children have died in a suspected case of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in Bihar. On Monday, June 10, about 20 children reportedly died and three other deaths were reported early on Tuesday morning at town hospitals in Muzaffarpur. More deaths have been recorded from different districts within Bihar, but the causes are yet to be ascertained.
Around five other children also died due to similar symptoms, in the last 24 hours after being admitted to hospital. The deaths of these children is being played down by the state government which claims that they died of hypoglycemia.
According to reports, senior BJP leader and Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey denied that the deaths were caused by AES and stated that of all the deaths that have been taking place since June 2, only one child had died of Japanese encephalitis.
However, despite the top health department officer’s denial of the cause of death being AES, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar said on Monday at a press conference, in response to questions about the children’s deaths, that the health department is keeping a close watch on the situation and that this disease wreaks havoc every year, ahead of the rains. He also said that it was a matter of great concern because children are dying of this disease every year.
Some 21 children were admitted at the Shri Krishna Memorial College Hospital (SKMCH) and 14 were admitted at Kejriwal Hospital on Friday.
"Of the 12 children who died in the past week, the death of two by AES has been confirmed," said District Civil Surgeon SP Singh. "We are investigating the reasons for the other deaths," he added.
According to Singh, most patients were brought in with high fever and hypoglycemia (a condition caused by a very low level of blood sugar (glucose).
"All primary health centres in the district have been put on high alert. But the people need to be cautious about their children as well. Give them as much liquid as you can and keep them hydrated," he said.
SKMCH pediatrician Dr GS Sahni said: "In children, the symptoms of AES are high fever, body stiffness and loss of consciousness. We're informing the public to be aware of these symptoms."
AES is the severe stage of encephalitis which is characterised by the inflammation of the brain. The symptoms include high fever and is caused by mosquito bites.
AES outbreaks are a routine in areas in and around Muzaffarpur in the summer months. The epidemic mostly affects children from poor families below 15 years of age. The disease is locally known as Chamki Bukhar or Mastishk Bukhar and has proven to be a deadly disease for children in the flood-prone districts of North Bihar.
(with inputs from PTI and Newsclick)