The death toll attributed to AES in Bihar has reached 112 by this time. Those mainly affected by the outbreak of this infectious disease are children in and around the district of Muzaffarpur. The outbreak which has now been persisting for a few weeks was initially accorded to hypoglycemia, a condition that is caused by low blood sugar levels. People were kept in the dark about the fact that hypoglycemia is, in fact, a symptom of AES.
Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) is accompanied and identified by an umbrella of symptoms that indicate an inflammation of the central nervous system. AES can be brought about by any number of viruses, bacteria or fungi. The main symptoms of the AES are fever, headache, confusion and seizures.
When Muzaffarpur had been hit by an encephalitis outbreak in 2014, the following theory was considered. The low blood sugar levels in kids were being propagated as a result of the litchi cultivation. It was believed that kids who ate litchi and went to bed without having a full meal, consumed the toxin Methylene Cyclopropyl-Glycine (MCPG), which is found to directly affect the brain due to undernourishment.
Now in 2019, Dr Gopal Shankar, the acting HOD of the Shri Krishna Medical College and Hospital(SKMCH) has refuted this theory, stating that other factors such as the intense heatwave in the state and increasing humidity levels are to blame. Dr Shankar stated that rainfall might help decrease the number of AES cases. Dr Arun Shah a former president of Indian Academy of Pediatrics has stated that malnourishment and time-elapsed factor in receiving treatment as well as the type of treatment and facilities present in hospitals is also to blame for the outbreak.
Whilst Muzaffarpur is witnessing the terrible effects of AES, in another part of Bihar, residents of Gaya, Aurangabad and Nawada districts too have witnessed a death toll of 184 due to the heatwave. The heatwave seems to have catalysed these deaths with Gaya and Patna recording temperatures of 45 degree Celsius. The CM, Nitish Kumar has announced a compensation of Rs. 4 lakh for the kin of victims.
The CM faced the rage and protests of angry patients and their kin in Muzaffarpur which he finally visited about 2 weeks after the outbreak. Not just Bihar but other northern states such as Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have been witnessing intense heatwaves over the past few weeks. The courts have had to impose Section 144 in the districts hit by the heatwave in Bihar between 11AM-4PM to keep people safe.
Alarmed by the climbing death toll the Supreme Court’s vacation bench comprising of justices Deepak Gupta and Surya Kant has agreed to hear a writ petition filed by advocate Manohar Pratap in regard to the outbreak in Bihar on Monday, June 24.