PATNA: Amid the large number of deaths of children suffering from suspected Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES), Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan on Sunday said that all-out efforts have been taken by the government to tackle the situation.
He visited the Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) on Sunday morning accompanied by his junior colleagues Ashwini Choubey, Bihar health minister Mangal Panday and other medical experts.
The death toll rose to 85 with the deaths of two girl children in SKMCH on Sunday morning, during the visit of Harsh Vardhan.
He said: "It is my appeal to people to take care of their children, do not allow them to go outside in scorching sun during hot summer. Ensure to give water to children and if they develop any symptoms akin to AES they should brought to the hospital immediately without delay."
However, unofficial deaths due to the disease are said to be over 100 as some children died in villages before being admitted to hospital.
For over four hours, Harsh Vardhan met and spoke to the parents of over 107 children, who have been admitted with various symptoms of AES.
The Health Minister was shown black flags both on his arrival in Patna and departure from Muzaffarpur by angry supporters of the JanAdhikar Party.
Speaking to the media at Muzaffarpur, Dr Harsh Vardhan said: “We are extremely shocked at the situation here. We have taken every effort to and save the lives of the diagnosed children." He admitted that Muzaffarpur and its some adjoining districts have become highly vulnerable pockets for the outbreak of diseases akin to AES.
He added: “It has now become necessary to set up well-equipped virology labs in 5 districts in order to ensure sharp detection and prevention of the disease. One virology laboratory will start functioning in Muzaffarpur within a year also”.
He also asked the officials present before him to post an epidemiologist at SKMCH on top priority.
Spelling out reasons for the outbreak of the disease that has claimed the lives of children, he said ‘extreme rise in the heat with humidity and litchi fruits’ is the cause.
“There is a need for starting research on AES. A modern research centre will be set up with the help of the government of India here, besides virology labs in five districts. The state government has been asked to depute teams of motivated and educated doctors at all Primary Health Centres which are situated in the affected areas of these 12 districts including Muzaffarpur”, he asserted.
A 100-bed paediatric intensive care unit would be set up as well.
Mangal Panday, state health minister of Bihar, said that awareness campaigns have been launched across the affected areas falling in Muzaffarpur, Sheohar, Vaishali, East Champaran and other districts. He said six ambulances have been deputed and doctors from other medical colleges brought in to assist the doctors at SKMCH.
On Saturday, Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai said that exact reason behind the outbreak of the disease with symptoms similar to acute encephalitis syndrome was not known. “The Centre is all set to investigate using details obtained from the victims’ families."
Meanwhile, a civil surgeon at Muzaffarpur, Dr SP Singh claimed that 326 patients with the same symptoms were admitted at SKMCH and Kejariwal between January and June this year.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced ex-gratia of Rs 4 lakh to the kin of each of victims of suspected AES caused deaths.
(With inputs from IANS)