New Delhi: The Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) seems to be unstoppable in its wake as the recent death toll in Muzaffarpur alone has been pegged at 121 as doctors and authorities continue to struggle to combat the outbreak.

The rise in death toll also comes on the day when Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said that several teams of experts and at least eight Advanced Life Support (ALS) ambulances have been deployed at encephalitis-affected areas.

He also said, “ICMR team of experts has been deployed at SKMCH hospital, Muzaffarpur for making the virology lab operational at the earliest. The multi-disciplinary team deployed earlier is reviewing all the case records of AES patients, admitted and treated in 2019.”

Earlier in the day, senior BJP leader and former Union Minister CP Thakur urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to visit Bihar’s Muzaffapur, where more and more children are dying od AES.

In a letter to Modi, Thakur, who is currently a Rajya Sabha member, requested him to visit the state-run Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) to take the stock of the situation and also appealed for financial help to the victims’ families.

In addition, now health officials in Bihar say that deaths are being reported from Patna, Bhagalpur, Banka, Sitamarhi, Samastipur, East Champaran and West Champaran also apart from Muzaffarpur.

WHAT TO DO?

Doctors and health officials have different views on the factors behind AES epidemic and the cause of the deaths. This confusion has further complicated the process to combat or control the seasonal outbreak of AES, which has been recurring every year.

Earlier this week, Bihar Chief Secretary Deepak Kumar publicly admitted that even the government is unclear about what exactly was causing the AES outbreak, which has been recorded regularly in Muzaffarpur since 1995. “We are still not aware if the disease is caused due to some virus, bacteria, toxin effect due to the consumption of litchi, malnourishment or due to environmental conditions such as high temperature and humidity,” he said.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar — who had visited Muzaffarpur on Tuesday and issued elaborate instructions to tackle the situation –held a high-level meeting in Gaya today.

At the meeting, the chief minister reviewed the measures taken for protecting the people from the heat wave and brain fever, and evaluate the steps initiated for the prevention of
Japanese encephalitis (JE) outbreak, which has been reported from several central Bihar districts in the past.

According to experts, unlike JE, AES is not caused by a viral infection but by malnutrition and aggravated by a toxin found in unripe litchis, which is said to trigger hypoglycemia or very low blood sugar levels.

With inputs from agencies