Death toll mounts from encephalitis in Bihar
Patna: Health experts have finally identified the "killer disease" which has killed close to 40 children, aged between two and eight years, in the past week, creating panic among the families.
The experts came to this conclusion after two days of extensive examination of victims in city hospitals and a study of symptoms noticed in them. All the victims had displayed high fever and bouts of unconsciousness as well as convulsions.
"Right now we can say the reason for the deaths of children is encephalitis but at this stage it's difficult to say what kind of encephalitis it is — whether Japanese or viral one. This can only be ascertained after a detailed clinical test," Dr I.P. Chaudhary, a member of three-member central team from Federal Health Ministry, told the media Thursday.
Team rushes to affected areas
The team was rushed to affected areas of Bihar on Tuesday on the directive of the Federal Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's request.
During the course of the study, the experts also came to know that the disease spread fast owing to lack of awareness among the villagers about hygiene and nutrition.
The team also found the majority of the victims were from slums and were malnourished.
Majority of the deaths have been reported from Muzaffarpur, a north Bihar district located close to Patna, yet the government's response was quite slow drawing criticism from various quarters.
Many of victims' families alleged initially that the government wasted much time in diagnosing the disease and didn't give it much priority. The first case was reported on June 14.
They say the authorities started taking action only after the death toll started climbing alarmingly. It was then that the state government pressed the panic button and urged the Union health department and other health institutes to investigate the disease.
Right now, three medical teams are examining victims. One team is from the National Institute of Virology, Pune, while the other team, from New Delhi, is headed by Dr S.K. Jain, joint director of National Centre for Disease Conformation. Yet another team led by Dr Chaudhary has been rushed by the Federal Health Ministry.
Strangely, the death toll continues to mount. Meanwhile, three more encephalitis deaths were reported overnight, taking the toll to 40 although the unofficial reports say the toll is much more than what is being mentioned by the government.
Officials said 18 children were still undergoing treatment at various hospitals in Muzaffarpur.
The state government has announced that it will bear the expenses of the treatment on children in both government hospitals as well as in private clinics.