What Is Acute Encephalitis Syndrome? Are Lychees Causing The Deaths In Bihar?

Acute Encephalitis Syndrome: This deadly disease has killed more than 100 children this month in Muzzaffarpur and its surrounding districts in Bihar. One of the main reasons cited for these deaths is hypoglycemia, a condition caused by low blood sugar levels.

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What Is Acute Encephalitis Syndrome? Are Lychees Causing The Deaths In Bihar?

Acute Encephalitis Syndrome causes mild flu-like symptoms such as high fever, convulsions and headaches


Highlights

  1. 100 children died in Bihar because of encephalitis
  2. One of the main reasons for deaths was hypoglycemia
  3. Malnourished children are prone to risks of acute encephalitis syndrome

Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) is group of symptoms that indicate an inflammatory condition of the central nervous system. It can be brought about by any number of virus, bacteria or even fungi - the actual reason has been elusive so far. Symptoms of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome can vary, depending on the part of the brain affected. The main symptoms include headache, fever, confusion and seizures. This has killed more than 100 children this month in Muzzaffarpur and its surrounding districts in Bihar. According to the state health department, one of the main reasons of these deaths is hypoglycemia, a condition caused by low blood sugar levels.

Also read: 6 Foods For Neuronutrition: You Must Eat These For Good Brain Health

Muzzafarpur Bihar encephalitis outbreak: What causes Acute Encephalitis Syndrome?


We spoke to Dr Sonia Lal Gupta, Senior Neurologist, Metro Hospitals, who stressed that malnourishment made children susceptible to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome.

"This condition is more common in areas like Muzzaffarpur and Bihar because the fruit litchi grows in abundance in the state at this time of the year. A study found that when malnourished children ate raw lychees and didn't have a proper meal after eating it, they suffered from Acute Encephalitis Syndrome. At night, the blood sugar in these children were found to fall drastically due to lack of food. This made many children go into coma right away. Some of them also experienced confusion and seizures. These symptoms were then diagnosed as Acute Encephalitis Eyndrome," explains Dr Sonia.

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Malnourished children are at risk of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome
Photo Credit: iStock

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According to a study published in International Journal of Medical and Health Research (download study here), methylene cyclopropyl glycine (MCPG) in unripe lychees can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar levels. MCPG can also cause vomiting, if it is ingested in huge quantities. This poisonous compound can also cause unconsciousness, death and coma, the study states. The toxins can cause high fevers and seizures in severely malnourished children.

Dr Sonia says that if children who are not malnourished consumed unripe litchis, they will not develop Acute Encephalitis Syndrome. "The study linked the disease more specifically with malnourishment. This has been found as a trend. When healthy children ate lychees, nothing happened," she adds. So it is posited that it is not the lychees but malnourishment that can be blamed for AES.

"To prevent acute encephalitis, it is important that children eat proper meals to avoid any rapid fall in the blood sugar levels", says Dr Sonia.

Regarding the treatment for encephalitis, it is important to know the causative factor which could be bacterial or viral. Viral encephalitis is the more common form. Supportive treatment is then provided accordingly.

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Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.



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