Patna: With two more children dying from Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in Muzaffarpur district on Friday, the official death toll from AES climbed to 59 in Bihar. Unofficial sources, however, put the death toll from AES to over 70.
An hour after Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey visited the government owned Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) in Muzaffarpur and announced that 57 children had died due to AES, two more two children died of it, an SKMCH official said.
This was the first time Pandey admitted that AES had caused the death of 57 children in Muzaffarpur.
It took the Health Minister 13 days to visit Muzaffarpur’s hospital after deaths of a few children from AES were first reported on June 1.
During his visit to the paediatric ICU wards, Pandey enquired about children undergoing treatment, held a meeting with doctors and SKMCH authorities and directed them to provide proper treatment.
According to health department officials, most of the children have died in SKMCH and dozens of seriously ill children with symptoms akin to AES were still undergoing treatment.
Ironically, it was Pandey who, early this week, refuted reports of child deaths due to AES in Muzaffarpur, claiming that the cause of these deaths was hypoglycemia.
The central team visiting Muzaffarpur since the past two days to enquire into cause of deaths of children reportedly said that the maximum number of cases reported were due to encephalopathy (under AES) category. The team also advised SKMCH to take up research and concentrate on a regular follow-up of patients. There should be a separate research wing under the department of microbiology and pathology and serum samples of patients should be preserve for recheck, they added.
The team recommended that the bed strength of the paediatric ICU at SKMCH be increased from existing 14 beds to 100, SKMCH superintendent Shahi said.
Till date, more than 170 cases of AES have been reported from 11 districts, which include Muzaffarpur, Vaishali, Sitamarhi, Samastipur, Sheohar, East Champaran, Patna, Nalanda, Gaya, Bhojpur, Aurangabad and Jehanabad.
It is after three years that AES cases have surfaced in Bihar in such a large number. Last year, a total 40 cases of AES were reported in which seven deaths occurred.
But this year, the situation is alarming, said sources. This can be gauged from the fact that the two paediatric intensive care units at SKMCH are full and the hospital authorities were forced to open a third PICU to accommodate fresh cases.
Most of the children with suspected AES belonging to the rural poor section (dalit, other backward classes and extremely backward classes).
Locally known as Chamki Bukhar or Mastishk Bukhar, AES is widely seen as a deadly disease for children in the flood-prone North Bihar districts.
According to doctors, AES is a severe stage of encephalitis characterised by inflammation of the brain. The disease is transmitted through mosquito bites, leading to infection that causes high fever.