Government starts probe into encephalitis outbreak as death toll hits 109

  • The symptoms include high fever, convulsions and extremely low blood sugar level
  • A multi-disciplinary group created by the Union health ministry said that it will look at the socio-economic and nutrition profiles of the households that have reported the cases

Neetu Chandra Sharma
Updated18 Jun 2019
Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Dr. Harsh Vardhan with Union MoS health Ashwani Kumar Choubey Visit at Shri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) after 74 children died due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome in Muzaffarpur (Photo: ANI)
Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Dr. Harsh Vardhan with Union MoS health Ashwani Kumar Choubey Visit at Shri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) after 74 children died due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome in Muzaffarpur (Photo: ANI)

The centre on Tuesday started probing the causes of high mortality among children from encephalitis in Muzaffarpur district of Bihar even as the toll rose to 109. So far, more than 485 cases of encephalitis have been reported in Muzaffarpur. As many as 161 people have been admitted in two hospitals, of whom 16 are in a critical condition.

A multi-disciplinary group created by the Union health ministry said that it will look at the socio-economic and nutrition profiles of the households that have reported the cases. The group will also focus on issues such as the ongoing heat wave and the reported high percentage of hypoglycemia in the children who have died, and the health infrastructure in the district.

“To gain deeper knowledge of the factors causing high child mortality in Muzaffarpur and neighbouring districts of Bihar, where increased cases of Japanese Encephalitis have been reported, the expert group met and deliberated at length today,” said Union health minister Harsh Vardhan.

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar visited the Shri Krishna Medical College and Hospital in Muzaffarpur, where close to 90 encephalitis patients have died.

The symptoms include high fever, convulsions and extremely low blood sugar level. Government authorities stated that malnutrition is also to be blamed.

A theory that some health experts are professing as a cause is that consumption of lychee grown in Muzaffarpur, which contains a toxin called methylene cyclopropyl-glycine, by a malnourished child can cause a drop in blood-sugar levels and can lead to hypoglycemia, or very low level of blood sugar.

The condition is being cited by doctors as main cause of death in children in Bihar. The state government said that those patients who come to the hospital on their own as they suspect that they are suffering from the disease will be reimbursed 400.

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