The Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) have claimed around 100 children’s lives in Muzaffarpur district in Bihar. The Nitish Kumar government has failed to check the spread of the disease in the state. The patients’ relatives are protesting at government hospitals and blamed the government and hospital administration for its failure to prevent the disease. They chanted slogans against the hospital administration. Relatives are demanding the resignation of Nitish Kumar. They asked that why the Nitish Kumar government is silent over children’s death! According to local residents, the death toll may be much higher as many from remote villages failed to make into hospitals in the district headquarters. According to the experts, the government continues to remain clueless about the real cause of the disease. At least five districts of the state namely, Muzaffarpur, Vaishali, Sitamarhi, Samastipur, and East Champaran are reported to have the disease outbreak (Acute Encephalitis Syndrome) since June 1, 2019.
Dr. Prof Bikash Kumar said, “The government is doing its job. Doctors are working round the clock to bring this disease under control. We are searching for the causes of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome like high temperature, low nutrition, and genetic control.”
In 2012, 120 children had died of the disease while the death toll was 90 in 2014. The preliminary symptoms of the disease include high fever and convulsions – an ailment locally known as ‘chamki fever’. Children mostly in the group between 1 to 10 are affected by the syndrome. Even though locals and administrators are on high alert, the death toll keeps on increasing. Meanwhile, the state government in an official statement mentioned the reason to be hypoglycemia – low blood pressure. After the reporting of AES from several districts, the Nitish government and administration started responding but that effort was not enough to tackle the outbreak. Affected children are undergoing treatment in Muzaffarpur’s Shri Krishna Medical College and Kejriwal Matri Sadan.
BJP MLA Raghav Sharan Pandey said, “The government is doing its work but it should have taken action against the errant officials for doing substandard work. I have already called for a probe into this matter. It is unfortunate that these incidents are happening every year. Steps must be taken to avert such incidents in the future as many children have lost their lives.”
On Sunday, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan visited the Shri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) in Muzaffarpur. One of the death occurred under the presence of Harsh Vardhan. A maximum number of casualties due to the syndrome were reported in SKMCH. “My five-year-old daughter Nisha died due to Encephalitis fever. She was admitted to the hospital on Saturday,” said the mother of the deceased.
Harsh Vardhan took stock of the situation arising out of a sudden surge in the number of deaths for four hours in the hospital. He said, “The doctors in the hospital are doing their best under such a difficult situation in treating the children. A multi-disciplinary institute will be established in the next year to examine the reason behind this disease.” Harsh Vardhan’s visit was met with black flags by opposition parties who claimed that the government’s inaction has exacerbated the situation.
A similar AES outbreak had claimed 379 lives in 2014. Harsh Vardhan who was the Union Health Minister at the centre then had visited the hospital and declared several measures to contain the crisis. However, despite the passage of five years, the situation has not changed. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has announced an ex-gratia of Rs 4 lakh each to the families of the children. He also issued directions to the health department, district administration, and the doctors to take necessary measures to fight the disease. Earlier, Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey stated that the government is doing its best to save the lives of children. He said, “We are trying everything and anything that can save our children’s lives. Everything is being made available from medicines to doctors. We have even called doctors and nurses from AIIMS in Patna.”