Bihar CM Nitish Kumar visits AES hit Muzaffarpur, toll rises to 107

Clay Curtis
June 18, 2019

The state has come under fire for its delayed response to the outbreak, with angry protesters today chanting "Wapas jao (go back)" at Chief Minister Nitish Kumar when he visited the Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) in Muzzaffarpur.

Kumar, who had been away in New Delhi since Saturday, returned to the state capital Monday evening and held an emergency review meeting on the AES situation with officials.

Of the 107 victims, 88 died at SKMCH and 19 at the private Kejriwal Hospital.

An encephalitis outbreak has killed over 100 children in eastern India since June, officials say, with more than 430 others requiring hospitalization.

Seasonal outbreaks of the disease, which causes brain swelling and high fever followed by disorientation, seizures, coma and death - with malnourished young children the worst affected - are common every year in Bihar, which has weak health infrastructure, under-equipped hospitals and roughly one-tenth the national average in terms of medical staff per patient.

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The NHRC has taken suo motu cognizance of media reports about the rising number of deaths of children due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in Muzaffarpur since the past few days.

The Commission also wanted to know about the status of the treatment being provided to the now hospitalised children and the relief provided by the state to the aggrieved families. It alleged that both the ministers had done nothing to raise awareness and sensitise people in the affected areas even though the disease had been killing children for years.

On Tuesday morning, Kumar rushed to the SKMCH hospital in Muzaffarpur, where more than 300 children have been admitted with complaints of AES since June 1.

The Commission was informed that the Union government has initiated the NPPCJA in this regard. Dr Harsh Vardhan met Minister of State for Health Ashwini Kumar Choubey and Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey during his visit to Patna. The Union Minister also held discussions with doctors of Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital in Muzaffarpur.

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