As many as 11 children have died from acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) in the last 10 days in Bihar, says the state health department. However, as per the media reports, this number could be as high as 29.
In Muzaffarpur district, 36 children have died in the last 48 hours, while 133 children have been admitted in hospitals due to suspected AES. The doctors, however, say that about 90% of these deaths were caused due to hypoglycemia.
The Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare on Jun 11, reviewed the status of AES in Muzaffarpur and Japanese Encephalitis (JE) in Gaya, Bihar.
AES Outbreak In Bihar
As per the officials of the state health department, last year, the number of deaths from AES was 7 in this period, which has increased this year. The reported cases for the same period last year was 40, which has also increased to 48 this year.
The state health department is investigating cases of acute encephalitis syndrome and Japanese encephalitis in 222 blocks in 12 districts.
Bihar CM Nitish Kumar opines that there is a lack of knowledge and awareness around this. He said, “It seems that in the last two years there was a drop in the number of cases, but this time it has hit once again. The awareness campaign was not done properly.”
AES or Chamki Bukhar or Mastishk Bukhar as it is commonly known as is a yearly occurrence in the region. It mainly affects children living in the flood-prone North Bihar districts. It is caused by a range of viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites. Hypoglycemia, a condition caused by a very low level of blood, causes hunger, trembling, racing of heart and in extreme cases, even coma and death.
Union Minister of Health, Dr Harsh Vardhan has also taken cognisance of the situation. He reviewed the status situation in Bihar and constituted a ‘multi-specialist high-level team’. “Health Ministry is also coordinating with the Ministry of Women and Child Development for distribution of nutritious food with glucose in the meals to prevent the development of AES,” said Dr Harsh Vardhan.
Encephalitis in India
A 2017 report titled ‘Acute Encephalitis in India: An Unfolding Tragedy’ published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research said that between 2008 and 2014, there have been over 44,000 cases causing nearly 6,000 deaths. The maximum cases were reported from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
In Bihar, Muzaffarpur district has been reporting maximum cases of encephalitis since 1995. One of the possible links of Muzzafarpur and occurrence of the disease is believed to be the fact that litchi fruit is grown in the region. The more cases of Acute Encephalitis show up during the litchi harvesting season.