Central AES survey looks into litchi, food security, meals

The central team on AES (acute encephalitis syndrome) case control has prepared an exhaustive questionnaire as part of its public outreach research programme to find out the cause of the disease and also to decisively conclude whether litchi is a causative factor.

The mystery disease, whose cause remains unknown despite several researches undertaken in the past, has claimed lives of 154 children out of the 720 cases of AES reported in 23 districts of Bihar so far this year.

The questionnaire of the central survey, headed by the National Institute of Epidemiology (NIE), Chennai, revolves around litchi, eating habits of AES-affected children, vaccination, access to mid-day meal, anganwadi kendras, visits by health workers, and socio-economic parameters in the AES affected areas of Muzaffarpur.

A section of the survey exclusively pertains to litchi. It asks parents if their AES-affected children consumed litchi; if so, which variety (Shahi or Chinese litchi); how many they ate; if they consumed unripe litchi; whether they routinely wash litchi before eating, etc. It also asks if the child visited litchi orchards, or there were litchi orchards near the house of the affected family.

The survey also seeks to know if villagers were availing of government schemes, sending their children to anganwadi kendras (for children up to 6 years of age), whether children ate meals provided by anganwadi kendra, if they got food items from anganwadi kendras seven days before the onset of illness.

Local teams from the Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (IGIMS), Patna, and the Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH), Muzaffarpur, have been roped in for collecting data. Community medicine departments of SKMCH and IGIMS, headed by Dr Madhav Sharan and Dr Sanjay Kumar, respectively, have been roped in.

“We are targeting to interview around 320 families, which include homes affected by AES and also those residing nearby. IGIMS has been asked to interview 90 families; SKMCH team is handling the rest. Based on software-enabled mapping, the central team will collate and interpret the data scientifically,” said Dr Kumar.

Besides finding out the causative factors of AES, which has been recurring every year in Bihar since 1995, the research findings would also help the state government to chalk out public intervention programmes, said an officer of the health department.

“The central survey, which was launched early this week, is expected to complete collecting all the data from across the district by next week,” said SKMCH principal Dr Vikas Kumar.

Besides NIE, the central team comprises researchers from the Indian Council of Medical Research, AIIMS Delhi, National Institute of Virology, Pune, National Institute of Nutrition and the Centre for Disease Control, Delhi.

First Published:
Jun 29, 2019 01:06 IST

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