Nitish Kumar Dodges Questions On Encephalitis Outbreak , Death Toll Reaches 157
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who is at present criticized over the deadly encephalitis outbreak in Bihar, faced many serious questions over the state government’s failure to control the epidemic. With ‘folded hands’, Nitish Kumar successfully managed to evade the questions asked by the media.
Till now, the death toll in Bihar has risen to 157 children due to the outbreak of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome(AES).
What is causing Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES)?
Majority of AES victims in Bihar were malnourished children, who skipped their meals at night before sleeping. When people – particularly malnourished children, who have lower levels of body fat than adults – consume litchis when hungry, their body uses glycogen released by the liver. In some undernourished kids, the glycogen level is dangerously low.
When glycogen reserves reduce in the liver, the body extracts energy from muscle and connective tissue. This reaction also takes place in the liver and gives out ketones and amino acids that can be neurotoxic at high levels and can have dangerous effects on the brain.
The most vulnerable to this disease have been children and young adults whose central nervous system are affected. The death rate due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) is as high as 6 percent in India, but it is increasing to 25 percent in the case of children.
Bihar Death Toll A National Horror Story: Congress
In a press conference, the Congress on Jun 19, referred to the deaths of children in Bihar as a “national horror story”. While attacking Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan and his predecessor JP Nadda, the Congress demanded accountability from the state government and the centre. It accused the two governments of being “insensitive” and not prepared for tackling such an outbreak.
The Bihar health minister inquiring about cricket scores at a press conference, other ministers and officials of the state having lavish meals at an executive lounge at a 5-star hotel while deaths are happening, are clear signs of official apathy and lack of responsibility.
There has been a lack of accountability by the officials which has allowed the death toll to balloon.
With increasing pressure, the Bihar government has recently demanded a socio-economic survey of about 500 people whose children have either been affected by Encephalitis or died of the disease.
When questioned on how the UP government was able to control the encephalitis outbreak in the state but Bihar could not, Harsh Vardhan, Minister of Health and Family Welfare told the media that he was doing his best to improve the situation and was monitoring it constantly. “I can only tell you that we are trying to do our best. I have sent one of my joint secretaries there, have sent all possible help — paediatricians, virologists, epidemiologists.”
“From our side, we have ensured that all the gaps that exist are filled. I was only four-five days old in this ministry, but I sent a high-powered team there. Every day I am monitoring things on an hourly basis and the teams are reporting to me directly,” he added.
Lack Of Basic Healthcare
Bihar has the worst doctor-patient ratio in the country, and the problem is likely to get worse, with patients from across the state have no access to the medical services. As per the National Centre for Disease Control officials, Acute Encephalitis Syndrome outbreak in Muzaffarpur has been a severe disease every year since 1995.
The medical opinion remains divided over the causes of the AES outbreak, which is said to have been spreading in Bihar for many years and has got epidemic proportions this time.
While the Centre had announced a 100-bed super speciality hospital in Muzzafarpur in 2014, after 379 children died suffering from the disease, the facility is still not completed.
Residents Vacate Their Homes
“My two sons died due to acute encephalitis in the matter of an hour. The elder one was seven years old while; the younger one was two years old. There were no awareness campaigns by the administration regarding the disease,” father of the two victims told the ANI.
Residents in Harivanshpur village of Vaishali district have moved out of their homes due to fear of acute encephalitis syndrome. Most families have sent their children to other villages after the spread of the disease, claiming hundreds of lives.