MUZAFFARPUR (Bihar): A child died of suspected encephalitis fever in front of Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, who was visiting Bihar's Sri Krishna Medical College Hospital (SKMCH) on Sunday noon.
Harsh Vardhan along with junior minister Ashwini Choubey and state health minister Mangal Panday was taking stock of the AES situation consulting doctors in every ward which were packed with children showing symptoms of both Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) and hypoglycemia.
"Hey bhagvan, mar gayal re hamar beti" (oh god, my daughter died), cried the mother of the child. "She wanted to go to school and she wept a lot yesterday when she was brought here. She told me she doesn't want to die", said the mother, while weeping inconsolably.
5-year-old Nisha was brought from Rajapur village of Muzaffarpur to the hospital when she started exhibiting symptoms similar to acute encephalitis syndrome
Few minutes later, another girl child breathed her last in a ward near the one where the ministers were present.
The mother of 7-year-old Muni Kumari of Runipur beat her head and cursed the political leaders: "Kono neta kuch na kiya, hamar beti mar gaye re" (No leader has done anything, My daughter is no more).
The mother reportedly lost consciousness following her child's death.
With the death of these two girls on Sunday morning, the number of children who have died in Muzzafarpur rose to 85 this month, even as Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced an ex-gratia of Rs 4 lakh each.
117 children with AES symptoms died in 2014. 89 children died in 2012. In 2013, 35 children had died followed by 15 deaths in 2015, 6 in 2016 and 12 in 2017-18.
Non-AES patients at hospital allege lack of treatment
Attendants of patients, who have been admitted in general wards, created ruckus when the ministers didn't hear their grievances. Munna Kumar, an attendant of a patient, admitted for last 2 months after being operated upon by a doctor, caught the hands of Union minister of state for health Ashwini Choubey, asking him to direct the doctors to take proper care of his brother. Choubey allegedly ignored him and moved ahead. Enraged at this, many attendants created ruckus.
Sushila Devi, 45, whose daughter is admitted in the general ward, alleged that no doctor comes to examine her daughter as all of them are engaged in wards filled with children showing AES symptoms.
"U bacho ko bhi bachao lekin ko bharti hai usko bhi dekhe doctors (Save those children who are coming with symptoms of AES but save all those too, who have already been admitted in general wards)", she said.
SKMCH superintendent Dr SP Shahi denied the allegations of attendants and said that all other patients are being given proper medical care.
Minister reassures people
Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey said: "We are trying everything and anything that can save children's lives. Everything is being made available from medicines to doctors. We have even called doctors and nurses from AIIMS in Patna."
"There is a protocol regarding what kind of medicines and facilities should be given and we are doing the same. We are monitoring things regularly and trying to save our children," Pandey said.
"Our government has tried to spread awareness which will be beneficial as well. Advertisement in newspapers, radio jingles, pamphlets and mic announcements are going to spread awareness regarding the disease. Health ministry is also working on it," he said.
What is encephalitis?
Recalling the situation that prevailed five years ago, Mangal Pandey said a team that was formed to ascertain the cause of this disease concluded that sleeping empty stomach at night, dehydration due to humidity and eating lychee on empty stomach were some of the causes of Encephalitis.
Encephalitis is a viral disease, which causes mild flu-like symptoms such as high fever, convulsions and headaches and has been claiming lives in the district for the past few weeks.
(With inputs from ANI)