PM calls Bihar AES deaths ‘matter of pain and shame’

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday called the deadly encephalitis outbreak in Bihar as a matter of “sadness and sadness”.

Referring to the death of children in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur, Modi said the Centre was working closely with the state government to fight the epidemic.

Acute encephalitis syndrome claimed one more life in Muzaffarpur on Wednesday, taking the total number of casualties across the state to 154, officials said.

“In modern times, such a situation is a matter of pain as well as shame for all of us. This is the biggest failure in last seven decades and we should take it seriously,” Modi said.

Modi said there had been gradual improvements in public health in some regions, such as in eastern Uttar Pradesh, but more needed to be done. “We are focusing on things like immunisation, safe motherhood and nutrition etc,” he said.

Modi said the Centre was in constant touch the state government. “I had immediately rushed my health minister and our effort is to bring people out of this crisis as soon as possible.”

The Prime Minister said what had happened in Bihar might happen in some other state too. Therefore, there should be awareness and work on issues like nutrition and health initiatives such as Ayushman Bharat.

Hundreds of children are admitted to hospitals – mostly at Muzaffarpur’s SKMCH and privately-owned Kejriwal hospital — for treatment of encephalitis which is characterised by sudden onset of high fever and convulsions.

According to data provided by the state health department in Patna, 23 out of 40 districts have so far been affected by the outbreak and the total number of AES cases registered since June 1 was 729.

The health department has attributed the cause of at least 120 deaths to hypoglycaemia — one of the many pathological conditions that fall under the umbrella term AES — characterised by sudden drop in blood sugar levels.

Experts say malnourished children, under the age of 15, are vulnerable to the condition which is triggered by, among other things, a toxin found in unripe litchis – the luscious fruit grown in abundance in north Bihar.

Some deaths have also been attributed to sodium and potassium imbalances, caused by dehydration which is common in hot and humid weather.

First Published:
Jun 27, 2019 00:45 IST

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