The deadly Acute Encephalitis Syndrome has claimed the lives of twenty more children in just a day, taking the number of deaths to 93 in June alone in Bihar's Muzaffarpur. As the state grapples with the fatal disease, the Union Government has announced a series of measures including 100 beds in the ICU for children in Muzaffarpur.
Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had visited the state today to take stock of the situation as the number of casualties from the AES and Japanese Encephalitis (JE) cases continue to rise. Many of them died due to hypoglycemia, a condition caused by low blood sugar. The minister said the Centre would set up a state-of-the-art research centre in Muzaffarpur within a year to deal with the menace of the disease.
In the last two weeks, 67 children died in Muzaffarpur due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome. On Saturday, the number of casualties rose to 73.
Tensions surmounted at the Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital, where Harsh Vardhan was visiting, as people demonstrated the alleged inadequate services by the hospital and negligence by politicians. Black flags were shown to his convoy as public outrage continued through the minister's visit.
A distraught man, whose brother is admitted in the hospital, took off his shirt and protested against visits by political leaders. Earlier today, a 5-year-old girl's family says she died in front of Harsh Vardhan, who was also a doctor before switching to politics.
Harsh Vardhan met multi-disciplinary teams deployed at the Ground Zero of the outbreak and addressed a state-level review meeting.
"I have personally talked to every concerned individual about this issue. I have talked to every official and every minister to ensure that everything is being done to fight this disease," Harsh Vardhan said after the review.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar yesterday announced an ex-gratia of Rs 4 lakh each to families of the children who died due to the disease. He has also given directions to the health department, district administration and doctors to take necessary measures to fight the disease.
Acute Encephalitis Syndrome, a viral infection, is a bunch of diseases that include hypoglycemia, dyselectrolytemia, chicken pox, Japanese Encephalitis positive and AES unknown. AES outbreaks are routine in areas in and around Muzaffarpur during summer, and mostly affects children below 15 years of age. This year has been one of the worst outbreaks of the disease in Bihar.