Child deaths due to AES continue; doctors, officials clueless
Patna: Children have been dying in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur and neighbouring districts due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) for over a fortnight, but doctors and heath officials are still in dark about the exact nature of the disease and precise cause of deaths.
The state and central governments are also clueless on the matter. As per official figures, 113 children have died due to AES in Muzaffarpur and neighbouring districts, so far.
Bihar Health Department Principal Secretary Sanjay Kumar said here that of the total 113 deaths, 91 had died in state-run Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH), 16 in the private Kejriwal hospital, both in Muzaffarpur, two in Nalanda Medical College and Hospital in Patna and 4 in other districts.
This year, 501 AES cases have been reported in the state till date.
Doctors and health officials have different views on the factors behind AES epidemic and the cause of the deaths. This confusion has further complicated the process to combat or control the seasonal outbreak of AES, which has been recurring every year.
Bihar Chief Secretary Deepak Kumar has publicly admitted that even the government is unclear about what exactly was causing the AES outbreak, which has been recorded regularly in Muzaffarpur since 1995.
“We are still not aware if the disease is caused due to some virus, bacteria, toxin effect due to consumption of litchi, malnourishment or due to environmental conditions such as high temperature and humidity,” he said.
“Several researches have been conducted, including by a team of experts from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta (US), but the finding is inconclusive”.
SKMCH Chief Medical Officer S P Singh said the reason behind the outbreak of the disease was yet to be confirmed. “We don’t know it and it was being ascertained medically”, Singh said.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, himself a doctor, who had visited Muzaffarpur three days ago and examined several children in SKMCH, said the deaths could have something to do with electrolyte imbalance and the metabolic system.
He also did not rule out the possibility of AES due to viral infection or toxin effect, which could possibly be caused by the consumption of litchi, as well as high temperature and humidity.
Taking this into consideration, Harsh Vardhan stressed the need for research on AES and setting up of a state-of-the-art, multidisciplinary research unit in Muzaffarpur in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research, the National Centre for Disease Control and AIIMS Patna.
Hardeo Manjhi, a landless labourer from Muzaffarpur, whose 4-year-old son is being treated at SKMCH, said: “My son suddenly developed high fever in the early hours last week, followed by convulsions and later turned unconscious, after which, we brought him to hospital for treatment. His condition is showing little improvement”.
Manjhi pointed out that most of the children first develop high fever, followed by symptoms like weakness, convulsion and then lose consciousness.