The horror of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome continues unabated with latest reports showing that 140 children have died in Bihar’s affected districts till Thursday. Nitish Kumar-led state government is under immense pressure over lack of medical facilities and abject mismanagement in tackling the outbreak. Several protesters held marches in Delhi demanding resignation of Bihar Chief Minister and state health minister Mangal Pandey. The Congress has called it a ‘national tragedy’. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is set to hear the plea over the outbreak next week.
"What is happening today in Muzaffarpur is a national horror, the national tragedy. The Congress Party prays for the families of 146 children and we cannot either express in words or feel the emotions of those parents who have lost their children," senior Congress leader Gaurav Gogoi said. He also lashed out at the Bihar Chief Minister and said that "the Chief Minister visited Muzaffarpur after 14 days of the tragedy".
On Tuesday, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar visited the SKMCH hospital, where more than 300 children had been admitted with complaints of AES since June 1. A team of Union health department officials visited the district over the weekend and clarified that AES was an umbrella of symptoms, unlike Japanese Encephalitis which was a viral infection.
Encephalitis is a viral disease that causes flu-like symptoms such as high fever, convulsions and headaches in patients. The state health department has cited hypoglycemia, a condition caused by very low levels of blood sugar, as one of the main reasons for the deaths. Mild encephalitis can be treated by bed rest and plenty of fluid intake. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as Tylenol, Advil, and Aleve can also be taken.
On Monday, Union Minister Harsh Vardhan Monday issued directions for immediately sending another high-level team to Bihar’s Muzaffarpur to set up a state-of-the-art multi-disciplinary research centre in the wake of children’s deaths. The health minister also reviewed the situation at a high-level meeting which was attended by senior officers of the Health Ministry, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and AIIMS.
The inter-disciplinary team consists of experts from ICMR, Delhi, NIMHANS, Bangalore, National Institute of Malaria Research and National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, National Institute of Epidemiology (NIE) Chennai and AIIMS, Delhi.