- AES has affected more than 600 children across 20 districts in Bihar
- We want our poor to get the best, affordable medical treatment: PM Modi
- Muzaffarpur has been the worst affected with 430 children admitted so far
With the number of deaths in Bihar crossing 160 this month due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome and Japanese Encephalitis, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today called it unfortunate and a "matter of shame for the nation."
Replying to the debate on the Motion of Thanks to the President's address in Rajya Sabha, PM Modi said, "The deaths in Bihar due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome are unfortunate and a matter of shame for us. We have to take this seriously."
Saying that he was in constant touch with the Bihar government, the PM added that the need of the hour is to strengthen Ayushman Bharat, the central government sponsored scheme that aims to address healthcare holistically by making interventions in primary, secondary and tertiary care systems covering both preventive and promotive health.
"We want our poor to get the best quality and affordable medical treatment," the PM said.
On Tuesday, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had said that the mortality due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome cases in Bihar has come down significantly due to the strategic interventions made by the central government. Mr Vardhan had last week said that the encephalitis outbreak was constantly being monitored by the PM himself.
According to the Bihar health department, the AES outbreak has affected 20 of 40 districts of Bihar and more than 600 children since June 1. Muzaffarpur has been the worst affected with 430 children admitted so far, of whom at least 130 died.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has faced criticisism for his government's delayed response to the health crisis. Mr Kumar made his first visit to Muzaffarpur, described as Ground Zero, 18 days after the outbreak struck. He was met by angry parents and protestors who chanted "Wapas jao (go back)".
The Supreme Court on Monday gave the centre and Bihar government seven days to respond to a petition alleging the deaths were "a direct result of negligence and inaction" in handling the outbreak.
Acute Encephalitis Syndrome, known as 'brain fever' is caused by any one of a number of viruses. Symptoms include high fever, vomiting and, in severe cases, seizures, paralysis and coma. Infants and elderly people are particularly vulnerable.
The precise causes of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome are not known, though a majority of medical professionals say it is linked to a ferocious heat-wave.
With inputs from ANI
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