Encephalitis in Bihar: 5 more children die due to brain fever outbreak at Muzaffarpur's SKMCH, 68 kids in ICU, confirms senior official

Five more children died on Wednesday due to suspected Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in Muzaffarpur's Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH), the superintendent of the institute, Sunil Kumar Shahi, told reporters. The SKMCH in Bihar's Muzaffarpur is, in a sense, the epicentre of the current outbreak, as most of the patients suffering from AES have been admitted here.

Speaking to the media, Shahi further said that as of now, 68 children are in the intensive care unit (ICU), and 65 children are in the ward. He noted, "The recovery rate is increasing because parents are bringing their children (for treatment) early.

 Encephalitis in Bihar: 5 more children die due to brain fever outbreak at Muzaffarpurs SKMCH, 68 kids in ICU, confirms senior official

A child arrives in a hospital in Muzaffarpur due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome. File image. AFP

Stressing on the need to spread awareness, he said, "I humbly request all political workers to go to places from where patients are coming, and spread awareness (there). Right now, they are not needed at the hospital. I request them to go to the periphery."

Shahi also asserted, "Not a single child has been made to lie on the floor in the pediatric ICU. Two to three children have been placed on one bed. There are 40 beds in the recovery ward and the number of children is more than that. Out of the 57 children there, 40 will be discharged today. Then, the situation will improve."

However, only days earlier, on 14 June, Shahi was quoted as saying by Hindustan Times that patients were being treated on the floor. He was reported to have said, "We have an in-patient bed strength of only 610 whereas the number of patients admitted to our hospital is around 876. We do not refuse any patient, so we put mattresses to treat them on the floor."

He was also quoted as making a similar statement by Newsclick more recently, on 18 June.

The official toll due to AES in Muzaffarpur on Wednesday rose to 113. The number of children admitted to the SKMCH with AES is 372 since 1 June, the district administration said.

Possible causes behind the outbreak

Last week, Bihar health minister Mangal Pandey had said that a team formed to ascertain the cause of this disease concluded that sleeping empty stomach at night, dehydration due to humidity and eating lychee on empty stomach were some of the causes of encephalitis.

However, in the recent past, there has been confusion over the nature of the outbreak. Doctors in Muzaffarpur had first claimed that the deaths are due to hypoglycaemia, a sudden drop in blood sugar levels. By 14 June, the health minister said that given the symptoms the deaths could be clubbed under Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES).

Anger against Nitish Kumar, Harsh Vardhan

The SKMCH has reported 93 casualties so far and only 118 children have been discharged after treatment. The rest are undergoing treatment or referred to hospitals in the Patna in a critical condition, it said.

In the Kejriwal hospital, two fresh cases of the AES were reported since Tuesday night, taking the total number to 146 since 1 June. The hospital has so far reported 19 casualties, though none of these took place in the past 24 hours. One death was also reported from the neighbouring East Champaran district on Tuesday.

A release by the state health department said 11 medical officers posted in Darbhanga, Supaul and Madhubani had been instructed to leave for Muzaffarpur immediately to help the local health authorities in tackling the outbreak.

Three paediatricians posted in other districts have also been pressed into service, while 12 nurses have been directed to report to the civil surgeon of Muzaffarpur.

Anguished by the deaths, a Muzaffarpur resident has filed a petition at a local court against Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, his deputy Sushil Kumar Modi, Union health minister Harsh Vardhan, Minister of State Ashwini Choubey and state Health Minister Mangal Pandey.

The resident, Mohammed Nasim, accused them of negligence, which has resulted in the high number of casualties. The chief judicial magistrate court has posted the matter for hearing next Tuesday.

Nitish Kumar had on Tuesday visited the SKMCH hospital, where he faced protests by angry people over the deaths. Irate family members of children admitted to hospitals booed at him and raised slogans like, "Nitish Kumar go back."

Earlier, Union health minister Harsh Vardhan visited the hospital to take stock of the situation. His cavalcade too was stopped by protesters while he was returning from Muzaffarpur to Patna and black flags were waved at him. The police then resorted to mild baton charge to disperse the crowd.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Jun 19, 2019 16:33:28 IST