Bihar Encephalitis Deaths: Toll mounts to 136, experts blame toxin found in unripe litchi fruit

Patna: Encephalitis has affected over 600 children across 16 districts of Bihar, of which 136 have lost their lives since the beginning of this month, according to the state health department.

The statistics released by the department revealed the total number of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome cases recorded across the state since June 1 was 626, and the total number of deaths caused by the same has climbed to 136.

The Health Department said that among the various complications that are covered under the umbrella term AES, hypoglycemia or very low blood sugar level was the most prevalent as it has afflicted 520 children and accounted for 110 deaths.

Experts have blamed the high incidence of hypoglycemia on a toxin found in unripe litchi fruit, which is believed to be consumed by malnourished children from underprivileged backgrounds.

Muzaffarpur district has bore the maximum brunt, accounting for 117 deaths so far. Besides, deaths have been reported from districts like Bhagalpur, East Champaran, Vaishali, Sitamarhi and Samastipur.

The state health department has deputed additional medical officers, child specialists, and nurses from other districts to Muzaffarpur to help the health officials in the district.

Health workers were being provided with packets of oral rehydration solution for free distribution in the affected regions so that dehydration and electrolyte imbalance could be kept at bay in the event of the onset of fever.

The government has also announced that it would reimburse any expenses involved in getting children treated at private hospitals and nursing homes or hiring of ambulances. Many child specialists, not associated with any government hospital, are holding free camps for the afflicted children.

The Centre, as well as the state government, have taken a grim note of the alarming number of deaths caused this year, the highest since 2014.