Bihar Encephalitis deaths: Toll climbs to 135; Plea for constitution of medical expert team filed in SC

Bihar encephalitis deaths: Public grief gave way to outrage as angry people raised slogans against the Bihar CM asking him to go back.

Bihar Encephalitis outbreak: Death toll climbs to 135; opposition steps up attack on govt
Image: PTI
By: ABP News Bureau
Updated: 19 Jun 2019 07:47 AM
New Delhi: The number of deaths due to the Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) has shot up to 135 in Bihar. The toll has climbed to 110 in the SKMCH and the Kejriwal hospital in Muzaffarpur district alone.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar who visited SKMCH hospital which has recorded maximum number of deaths in Muzaffarpur district on Tuesday, was faced with public anger.

Public grief gave way to outrage as angry people raised slogans against the Bihar CM asking him to go back. Kumar, who was away in New Delhi since Saturday, had returned to Patna on Monday evening and held an emergency review meeting on the AES situation with officials.

On Tuesday morning, the chief minister rushed to the Shri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) in Muzaffarpur, where more than 300 children have been admitted with complaints of AES since June 1 and close to 90 of them died.

Kumar, Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi and local MLA Suresh Sharma went inside the ICU to meet the patients before holding an impromptu review meeting with the hospital authorities and other state Health Department officials.

In the meantime, scores of people gathered outside the hospital and started shouting slogans like "Nitish Kumar go back", as they vented their anger over the chief minister for visiting the area after the number of casualties had crossed the three-digit mark.

The death toll has climbed to 110 in the SKMCH and the Kejriwal hospital, while one died in neighbouring East Champaran district. Although most of the AES cases have been reported from Muzaffarpur, it has also been reported from adjoining districts like East Champaran and Vaishali.

Eyewitnesses said no sooner than Kumar stepped inside the ICU, parents and guardians burst into sobs and begged the chief minister to save their children who are battling for lives. Kumar reportedly consoled them and interacted with the ailing children, enquiring whether they were getting food and medicines in time.

Officials of the Union health department had visited the district over the weekend and clarified that AES was an umbrella of symptoms, unlike a viral infection like Japanese encephalitis. The symptoms include high fever, convulsions and extremely-low blood-sugar level.

Among the factors said to trigger the syndrome are malnutrition. Moreover, the lychee grown in Muzaffarpur is said to contain a toxin that can cause a drop in blood-sugar levels if consumed by a malnourished child.

Petition in SC:

A plea was filed in the Supreme Court on Tuesday seeking direction to the Centre to urgently constitute a team of medical experts for treatment of children in Bihar suspected to be suffering from acute encephalitis syndorme (AES), which had claimed more than 100 lives.

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

"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," the plea said.

Opposition attacks:

In a series of tweets, former chief minister Rabri Devi asked whether Kumar, in power for about 14 years, should be held accountable for the deaths.

Without mentioning any name, the Rashtriya Janata Dal vice-president apparently took potshots at Union Minister of State for Health Ashwini Choubey and state Health Minister Mangal Pandey for their reported conduct during their visit to Muzaffarpur on Sunday.

While Choubey is said to have been dozing off while Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan briefed the media, Pandey was reportedly enquiring about the score of the World Cup match between India and Pakistan at a review meeting with health officials

(with inputs from PTI)