Doctors Explain What’s Causing AES Epidemic in Bihar.
- Jharkhand govt has put all medical services on high alert to deal with possible AES outbreak
- Encephalitis outbreak has claimed lives of over 100 children in neighbouring state Bihar
- Jharkhand govt says that it wants to leave no stone unturned for any possible case
The death toll of children due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in Bihar reached 144 on Wednesday, nearly a fortnight after its deadly outbreak in the state. The worst-hit district is Muzaffarpur with the viral disease claiming the lives of 117 children, followed by Vaishali where 12 children have lost the battle with AES. Another six children have lost their lives in Begusarai district, five in Samastipur, and two each in Motihari and Patna.
Encephalitis also known as AES, Japanese Encephalitis or Chamki Fever is a disease that causes inflammation of brain. It leads to fever and associated neurological conditions like confusion, mental disorientation, delirium or even coma. In Muzaffarpur, many victims of encephalitis had very low sugar levels. The disease has caused deaths of ovr 100 children in Bihar, this year.
The popular terms like ‘Litchi Havoc’, Chamki Bhukar’, ‘Killer Encephalitis’, ‘Deadly Litchi Toxin’ that are being used to report the epidemic in Bihar point to the dismal methods of investigating a disease in India. For, it only serves the purpose of headlines.
In June 2019, the cyclic return of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) or Chamki fever to one of India’s poorest and malnourished states, Bihar, lead to hospitalisation of 309 children in Muzaffarpur.
300 more are in treatment. But he was accosted by irate families who fumed that the chief minister allegedly found time to visit the hospital only after the toll crossed 100. Many shouted slogans of “Nitish go back” while others waved black flags.
Outside, protesters claimed that the government came in too late.
“Things are being spruced up so that it makes a favourable impression on the chief minister. Had the CM visited earlier, it would have made the officials concerned pull up their socks and many lives could have been saved,” said one of the protesters.
- The broad characteristics of AES defines it as a group of clinically similar neurologic manifestations caused by several different viruses, bacteria, fungus, parasites, chemicals or toxins etc.
- Dr. TJ John, former president of the Indian Association of Pediatrics (IAP) and Emeritus Professor of Virology at the Christian Medical College in Vellore, has called AES “a meaningless term” given that “any brain disease in the child may be called AES”.
- “AES is a term used by untrained health workers to say that a child has some brain disease like convulsion, unconsciousness etc. But when a doctor examines the child, he must conclude which kind of AES disease it is: encephalitis (virus causing brain inflammation), meningitis (swelling of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord), encephalopathy (broad term for any brain disease that alters brain function or structure) or cerebral malaria (severe neurological complication of infection with Malaria),” he told News18.
- Dr John said a doctor must figure out the right disease between these four main categories when a case called AES is referred by a health worker. One of his many concerns is the casual use of the term AES by doctors.
The Odisha government has also ordered the laboratory test of litchi fruit being sold in the markets in the state following reports that litchi consumption was one of the factors behind the spread of AES. The fruit is said to contain a toxin which can cause a drop in blood sugar levels if consumed by a malnourished child.