Acute Encephalitis outbreak claims lives of dozens of children in India's Bihar: official

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NEW DELHI, June 12 (Xinhua) -- Dozens of children have died in India's eastern state of Bihar due to suspected Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES), officials said Wednesday.

Although the local government admitted the outbreak of the disease and underlines the need for research, it is tight-lipped over the number of deaths and confirmed only 11 deaths due to AES.

However, local media reports said at least 53 children have died in the last 10 days and 36 alone in the past 48 hours due to AES in the Muzaffarpur district.

The doctors, however, said many of the deaths were due to hypoglycemia, a condition caused by very low level of blood sugar.

"There's proper research required to find out the reason, but 90 percent cases are due to hypoglycemia," said Dr S K Shahi, medical superintendent at the Sri Krishna Medical College Hospital in the Muzaffarpur district.

Reports said over 150 children have been admitted in various hospitals due to suspected AES. The children are mostly from rural areas.

According to officials AES outbreaks are routine in areas in and around Muzaffarpur during summer.

"It seems that in the last two years there was drop in the number of cases, but this time it has hit once again. The awareness campaign was not done properly," Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said on Monday.

Kumar stressed upon the need for creating awareness among people that they should not let their children sleep on an empty stomach, or to have litchi on empty stomach which could be a factor in the instances of Hypoglycemia.

Experts said the disease mostly affects children below 15 years of age and symptoms of AES are acute-onset of fever and a change in mental status -- confusion, disorientation, delirium, or coma and the onset of seizures.

Meanwhile, the federal health ministry constituted a multi-specialist high-level team to visit Bihar on Wednesday to assist the local government in containment and management of the rising cases of AES in Muzaffarpur and Japanese Encephalitis (JE) in Gaya.

"The visiting team comprises of experts from the National Centre for Disease Control, National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme, Indian Council of Medical Research and AIIMS, Patna," a health ministry official said.

India's federal Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said, he met with Bihar local health minister Mangal Pandey recently and assured him of full support and assistance.

Vardhan also said the health ministry was coordinating with the ministry of women and child development for distribution of nutritious food.

Local health department in Bihar issued an advisory urging parents to prevent their children from playing under the sun when the temperature is hovering between 42 to 43 centigrade degree. Enditem

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