Health minister reviews Bihar crisis as encephalitis toll hits 81

Thirteen more children succumbed to suspected acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) in Bihar on Sunday, taking the toll in the state to 81 so far this year.

Of the 81 deaths, 65 were reported from the Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH), Muzaffarpur, said its superintendent Dr Sunil Kumar Shahi.

The other 16 deaths were reported from Kejriwal Maternity Clinic (KMC), Muzaffarpur, said the district’s civil surgeon Dr Shailesh Prasad Singh. Most deaths have taken place in June.

Union health and family welfare minister Harsh Vardhan, who visited SKMCH on Sunday to assess the situation, spent close to three hours at the hospital as he examined many children.

“I assure the people of the area, especially the affected families, that the government will extend all possible help and measures to the state government,” Vardhan said.

Addressing the media after holding a review meeting with senior health officials, the health minister set timelines for completion of different tasks to combat AES, which has been recurring every year in Bihar since 1995.

He proposed setting up a state-of-the-art, multi-disciplinary research unit in Muzaffarpur, besides a composite, full-fledged paediatric intensive care unit (PICU), having at least 100 beds at SKMCH. “There is a need of a state-of-the-art research centre to tackle this challenge in Muzaffarpur which will work in collaboration with the ICMR and the WHO,” he said.

At present, SKMCH has four PICUs, housed in small rooms. Some of them were earlier being used as ICUs, but were converted into PICUs to handle the surge in AES cases. The PICUs at SKMCH have an in-patient bed strength of 34, but given the rush, two to three children are being treated on each bed.

Vardhan also urged Bihar health minister Mangal Pandey to strengthen the state’s primary health centres.

The Union minister asked the state government to scout for dedicated and committed doctors and support staff, who could go and stay in affected villages, identify children having low blood sugar level and clinically attend to them.

The minister also asked the state government to complete within four months the construction of the Centre-funded super-speciality hospital at SKMCH.

This, he said, would take care of complementary diseases that may arise due to AES.

First Published:
Jun 16, 2019 23:35 IST

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