New Delhi: The Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) that broke out in Bihar on June 2 this year has claimed at least 47 lives of children in Muzaffarpur so far.

The death toll, announced by Dr, Shailesh Prasad Singh, a civil surgeon in the city, has increased by more than 15 in Muzaffarpur as compared to Wednesday’s count of 31. At the same time, the total number of deaths in the northern region of the state has crossed 53.

Now, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan is scheduled to visit Bihar’s affected Muzaffarpur district on Thursday to take stock of the situation.

Meanwhile, the central government has deployed a team of scientists from Patna based Rajendra Memorial Research Centre to Muzaffarpur to help provide proper treatment to children suffering from the disease.

The viral disease, transmitted through mosquitoes, severely damages the brain cells and has a high mortality rate amongst children.

SKMCH paediatrician Dr G.S.Sahni said: “In children, the symptoms of AES are high fever, body stiffness and loss of consciousness. We’re informing the public to be aware of these.”

Opposing to the count, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar reiterated a statement issued by the health department in Bihar, saying that AES is not the cause of the death. Instead, he said that the death toll rose to such extreme as a result of low blood sugar amongst children, aggravated by the heat, humidity and lack of rains.

Every year around the same time, the outbreak of the mortal disease kills hundreds of children in the flood-prone regions of north Bihar. The disease is locally known as “Chamki Bukhar” or “Mastishk Bukhar”.

The UNICEF along with the Bihar health department releases a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) every year, however, it is never followed thoroughly.

Nearly 53 deaths have been reported in the past 10 days, though the state Health Department has confirmed only 36 deaths of suspected AES during this period.

With inputs from agencies