Encephalitis deaths: Supreme Court directs Centre, Bihar govt to file response within 7 days

Bihar Encephalitis Deaths: The Supreme Court will today hear a PIL on the outbreak of suspected Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in Muzaffarpur in Bihar.

Bihar Encephalitis Deaths: Toll rises to 152, SC to hear PIL on AES outbreak in Muzaffarpur today; 10 points
Bihar Encephalitis Deaths: The Supreme Court will today hear a PIL on the outbreak of suspected Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in Muzaffarpur in Bihar. (PTI)
By: ABP News Bureau
Updated: 24 Jun 2019 11:30 AM
Bihar Encephalitis Deaths: The Supreme Court on Monday heard a PIL on the outbreak of suspected Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in Muzaffarpur in Bihar. The apex court has sought a response within seven days from the Centre and Bihar government on the issue of the deaths of more than 100 children in Muzaffarpur due to the outbreak of AES.

A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and B R Gavai directed the Bihar government to file an affidavit on the adequacy of medical facilities, nutrition and sanitation and the hygiene conditions in the state.

During the hearing, one of the lawyers informed the court that similar deaths had occurred earlier in Uttar Pradesh. The court took note of it and directed the state government to file its response as well.  The matter has been posted for hearing after 10 days.

The Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed by two lawyers, in connection with the outbreak of suspected AES in Muzaffarpur district of Bihar, in which 152 children have lost their lives.

The petitioners-- Manohar Pratap and S Ajmani-- in their PIL, had claimed that the Bihar government's measures are inappropriate and not enough in ensuring and stopping the outbreak of the disease in Muzaffarpur. Therefore, the Apex Court should pass appropriate directions in this regard.

The plea had also sought a direction to the Centre for providing all necessary medical equipment and other supports for the effective treatment of the children suffering from the epidemic disease.

What did the plea sought?

1) A vacation bench of the Apex Court, headed by Justice Deepak Gupta had on June 19th said, the case will be heard on June 24, Monday. "We will hear the petition filed by the lawyers-cum-petitioner in connection with AES in June 24," the bench said.

2) The petition, filed by advocate Manohar Pratap, claimed that he was deeply pained and saddened by the deaths of more than 126 children, mostly in the age group of one to 10 years, in the past week and the figures were rising day by day.

3) The plea said that the deaths of children are a direct result of negligence and inaction on the part of the respective state governments of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Union of India in handling the epidemical situation which arises every year due to outbreak of AES also called Japanese encephalitis."

4) It claimed that thousands of young children were losing their lives yearly from the disease but the governments (state and Centre) had done nothing to prevent its spread.

5) The petition further said, "This year i.e in 2019, the epicentre of the said disease is Muzaffarpur in Bihar where more than 126 children have lost their lives in past one week. Media reports shows that there is acute shortage of doctors, medical facilities, intensive care units and other medical equipments in the hospitals in nearby areas and children are dying in hospitals due to lack of required facilities."

6) The petitioner has sought a direction to the Centre for constituting a board of experts in the medical field and immediately sending it to the place of the outbreak i.e. Muzaffarpur, to review and assist the emergency situation.

7) He has asked the apex court to direct the Centre and the Bihar government for immediately arranging 500 stationary and 100 mobile intensive care units (ICU) with required medical professionals to deal with the patients from the remote areas and the emergency situation which occurred due to the AES outbreak.

8) The plea has sought a direction to the Bihar government to notify an extraordinary order directing all the private medical institutions in the affected area to admit and provide treatment free of cost to the patients.

9) The petitioner also sought directions for all possible steps to stop the disease outbreak in the earlier epicentre, Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, and to create awareness about the preventive steps and first-aid, which requires to be given to the patient in the case of AES.

10) He has asked for a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to members of the family of the deceased who have died due to negligence of the state machinery.

The official figure of deaths is 152, with both the SKMCH hospital and the privately owned Kejriwal hospital in Muzaffarpur.

Meanwhile, a huge chunk of plaster fell off the ceiling at the SKMCH in the afternoon and came crashing down on the ground, barely a few feet away from a patients' ward. Nobody was injured in the incident, which took place a day after human skeletal remains were found strewn near a garbage dump close to the hospital building.

Experts attribute the deaths to hypoglycemia which typically affects malnourished children below the age of 15 years and said to be triggered by consumption of unripe lychees -- a fruit grown in abundance in Bihar. The fruit contains a high concentration of a toxin that causes blood-sugar levels to fall sharply.

Watch | Malnourished children consuming unripe litchis vulnerable to AES, say doctors

A team of Union health department officials visited the district over last weekend and clarified that AES was an umbrella of symptoms, unlike Japanese Encephalitis which was a viral infection.

The symptoms include high fever, convulsions and extremely low level of sugar in the blood. Among the factors said to trigger the syndrome are malnutrition.

Moreover, the litchi grown in Muzaffarpur is said to contain a toxin which can cause a drop in blood sugar levels if consumed by a malnourished child.

(With inputs from PTI)