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Encephalitis killed at least 161 children in India's Bihar

Christian Fernsby |
At least 161 children have died due to encephalitis in India's eastern state of Bihar, the state-run broadcaster All India Radio (AIR) said.

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"In Bihar, the death toll due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in Muzaffarpur district and its adjoining areas has touched 161," the broadcaster said.

The Indian authorities are rushing special teams of doctors to the affected areas in Bihar to contain the disease and unravel its cause.

"A team of National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC) Pune and All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) will go to concerned villages to know the reason behind deaths due to AES," an official said.

"The team will meet members of the affected villages and will do a social audit. The team will also collect data regarding the economic background of families."

Last week a multi-specialist high-level team from India's federal health ministry visited Muzaffarpur to assist the state government in the containment and management of rising cases of AES.

Experts said the disease mostly affects children below 15 years of age and symptoms of AES are acute-onset of fever, a change in mental status confusion, disorientation, delirium, or coma and the onset of seizures.

According to officials, AES outbreaks are routine in areas in and around Muzaffarpur during summer.

Health officials are still clueless about the exact nature of the disease and the precise cause of deaths. However, some of them blamed high incidence of hypoglycemia on a toxin found in unripe litchi fruit, which is believed to be consumed by malnourished children from underprivileged backgrounds.

Although there have been a few instances of Japanese encephalitis and herpes, health officials said these cases are caused by viral infections.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said the AES cases recurred because awareness campaign was not done properly.

The deaths are being reported at a time when the state is battling with the deaths due to the heatwave. Over 100 people have died because of the prevailing heat wave conditions in the state since June 15.


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