Nitish Kumar Makes First Visit To Encephalitis Ground Zero, Toll 126

Patna, Bihar: 

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and today made his first visit to Muzzaffarpur since an outbreak of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome began 17 days ago. The Chief Minister was accompanied by Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi. The disease has claimed the lives of 126 children, with 107 deaths reported from Muzzaffarpur and its surrounding districts.

The two leaders visited the state-run Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital in Muzzaffarpur, where they met children undergoing treatment and their parents. The Chief Minister will hold a review meeting with doctors and health officials later in the day.

According to official data available till late Monday night, 85 children died at the Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital in Muzzaffarpur with a further 18 dying at the Kejriwal Maternity Hospital. The Chief Minister had earlier announced “an ex gratia payment of Rs 4 lakh to the next of the kin of those who have died”.

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan chaired a high-level meeting yesterday that was also attended by officials from the Health Ministry, AIIMS and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), in which he said there was “urgent need for an inter-disciplinary, high-quality research team”.

“To establish the cause of the disease, there is an urgent need for an inter-disciplinary, high-quality research team. The research team shall work with the children suffering from AES looking at various aspects including periodicity, the cycle of disease, environmental factors, and metrological data, besides other factors,” the health minister, who was a doctor before entering politics said.

Dr Vardhan, who visited Muzzaffarpur hospitals on Sunday, also directed the establishment of five virological labs across different districts in the state and the setting-up of a 100-bed paediatric Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH).

In response to the outbreak the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) yesterday sent notices to the Union Health Ministry and the Bihar government.

“The NHRC has taken suo motu cognisance of media reports about the rising number of deaths of children due to acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) in Muzaffarpur district of Bihar in the past few days,” an official said.

The response is expected within four weeks, the NHRC said, adding that deaths of children in such large numbers despite reported measure by government agencies could indicate a “possible flaw” in proper implementation of vaccination and awareness programmes.

Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) is a viral disease that causes mild flu-like symptoms such as high fever, convulsions and headaches. The state health department has cited hypoglycemia, a condition caused by very low level of blood sugar, as one of the main reasons for the deaths.

With inputs from IANS, ANI

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