New Delhi: The death toll due to Encephalitis in Bihar rose to a staggering 128 on Wednesday in middle of mounting blame game and directives being ordered by several state and Central departments. As of Wednesday morning, the number of children succumbing to the deadly disease in Muzaffarpur and neighbouring areas was pegged at 113.

In wake of a deadly outbreak, the Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to hear a PIL seeking direction to the Centre to send a team of medical professionals to review and assist in preventing the epidemic of acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district.

Bihar Chief Secretary Deepak Kumar had earlier publicly admitted that even the government is unclear about what exactly was causing the Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (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.

“Several researches have been conducted, including by a team of experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta (US), but the finding is inconclusive,” he added.

SKMCH Chief Medical Officer S.P. Singh said the reason behind the outbreak of the disease was yet to be confirmed. “We don’t know it and it was being ascertained medically”, Singh said.

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, himself a doctor, who had visited Muzaffarpur three days ago and examined several children in SKMCH, said the deaths could have something to do with electrolyte imbalance and the metabolic system.

He also did not rule out the possibility of AES due to viral infection or toxin effect, which could possibly be caused by the consumption of litchi, as well as high temperature and humidity.

In view of this, the Odisha government ordered a test of litchis in the state and the traders stopped bringing orders of the fruit from Bihar. Department of Health & Family Welfare of the Odisha government said, “Encephalitis is spreading in litchi growing areas of Bihar and other parts of the country. In view of this, the Food Safety Commissioner has been directed to collect and test a sample of litchi being sold in the market to ascertain toxic contents.”

Earlier in the day, news agency ANI quoted people who had gone to Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) in Muzaffarpur with their children suffering from fever. The parents there alleged that the ailing children were not being admitted in the hospital. “No one has told us anything about or given us ORS. We don’t know the symptoms of AES. Our children are burning with fever since 4-5 days. Doctor asked us to get medicines for them and said they’ll admit them if the fever doesn’t go down after that. We don’t have money,” said a worried parent.

With IANS inputs