NEW DELHI: The Union Health Ministry has offered to build a special unit for tackling Acute Encephalitis Syndrome cases in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur, which has emerged as the epicenter of the outbreak of a disease that has killed hundreds of children in the region over the years. The unit will be built as part of Centre’s Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Surakhsa Yojana - a programme aimed at creating regional AIIMS but also supporting up-gradation of existing government medical colleges in the states.
Officials in the health ministry said that the Centre has already sanctioned `130 crore for the Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital in Muzaffarpur under the scheme for creation of a super-speciality block consisting of departments like neonatology, neurology, neurosurgery and gastroenterology. The state is spending `30 crore from its kitty for the up-gradation. “We are now telling them that if they want a unit for AES we will create a special paediatric unit with appropriate infrastructure and equipment,” a senior official in the ministry said. Another official said that the move was aimed at helping the state deal with the cases more effectively.
“There were reports of SKMCH having been overwhelmed with high AES case burden and therefore a dedicated unit will help in case of further outbreaks,” he added Last year, the Acute Encephalitis Syndrome cases in Muzaffarpur had seen a massive spike and the disease — whose epidemiology remains yet to be fully understood — had killed nearly 135 children, nearly all of them from poor families. There were a total of over 441 AES admissions in Bihar’s three districts in 2019. This was a significant jump from the previous year when the total number of cases was just above 40. A high level team sent by the Centre to study the deaths had established a co-relation with day temperature exceeding 40 degree Celsius over three days at a stretch coupled with constantly high night temperature with a spike in the disease.