NEW DELHI : The Centre on Wednesday filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court regarding Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) deaths in Muzaffarpur, Bihar.

Filed by the ministry of health and family welfare, the affidavit stated that health is a state subject and the Centre has taken substantial measures to support and guide state governments to contain the spread of the disease.

It further maintained that the Centre has been supporting the state in handling the health crisis.

“Five virology labs are to be set up in different districts in the state, the location of the district to be decided in consultation with the state government and the same is to be funded under the National Health Mission (NHM). In the adjoining districts, 10-bedded paediatric ICUs to be set up so that such cases can be treated early and there is no unnecessary load on the facilities available at Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH.) Funds for this are to be provided through the NHM," the affidavit stated.

“Emphasising the need for early detection and treatment of hypoglycemia cases, the health minister has said that a dedicated team of doctors should be placed in endemic primary health centres (PHCs) with required facilities, at least for 3 to 4 months before and during expected onset of disease. As for present, the PHCs and community health centres (CHCs) concerned should take prompt corrective measures for hypoglycemia at the facility itself to utilise the golden hour," it said.

The affidavit came a day after Bihar state government filed its affidavit on Tuesday that admitted acute shortage of doctors, nurses, lab technicians and pharmacists in the state. In its reply to the apex court, the Bihar government admitted the state’s healthcare system was crippled. The state has only 5,205 doctors in government-run health centres against the sanctioned strength of 12,206 and 5,634 nurses against a sanctioned strength of 19,155. “It is respectfully submitted that the overall human resources available in the health system in the state is not as per standard norms," the affidavit said.

The affidavit filed by Nageshwar Prasad, additional director of the health department, Bihar government, added that the state is aware and genuinely concerned with the problem of AES/Japanese Encephalitis (JE) and its effect in recent years despite best possible measures/efforts being taken.

The court on June 25 had issued notices to the central and Bihar governments after a public interest litigation (PIL) was filed seeking immediate measures to combat the rising deaths of children suffering from suspected AES in Muzaffarpur. The petition filed by advocates Manohar Pratap and Sanpreet Singh Ajmani, members of the Youth Bar Association, alleged that there was a complete failure of the state machinery in dealing with the outbreak of the disease. Inadequate steps to prevent the outbreak, coupled with negligence, have resulted in several deaths, it alleged.

Till 27 June, the state recorded at least 185 encephalitis deaths, with 132 in Muzaffarpur alone. This is followed by 20 in Vaishali, 12 in Motihari, eight in Begusarai, nine in Samastipur, and one each in Arrah, Sheohar, Purnia, and Siwan.

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