As many as 100 children have died of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur, according to a hospital official.

The number of deaths was confirmed by Sunil Kumar Shahi, Superintendent at Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH).

The most number of child deaths have been reported at Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital and Kejriwal Hospital.

Earlier on Sunday, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan accompanied by Union Minister of State for Health Ashwani Kumar Choubey and Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey visited Muzaffarpur. The minister stressed the need for research on AES that has caused the deaths.

“There should be research to identify the disease that is still not identified and for that research facility should be developed in Muzaffarpur,” Harsh Vardhan said.

Harsh Vardhan said all branches of the medical sector should work together to control the outbreak of the disease. “We should also work with international organisations to contain the disease.”

He said all children in the affected areas should be immunised and people should be sensitised about the disease.

Harsh Vardhan, who reviewed the situation, said the Central government has been assisting the state government to control the situation after the outbreak of the AES.

“The Central government will provide all possible help including financial to the state to control the situation, provide proper treatment and develop infrastructure needed for it.”

“It is shocking and painful that children are dying. I have felt the pain and grief of the parents,” he said.

He said that a new 100-bed Intensive Care Unit will be set up in SKMCH within a year to provide proper treatment to patients with AES symptoms.

“A timeline has been decided to work to contain and control the disease”, he said.

He said that biological laboratories in Muzaffarpur will be upgraded and new labs would be set up in the state including at AIIMS Patna.

Harsh Vardhan said hot weather with high humidity is also one of the main reasons for the outbreak of AES.

“I have discussed AES outbreak with doctors and health officials, taken an overall comprehensive view and directed them that such situations are not repeated,” he said.

He said that he has personally seen all seriously-ill children undergoing treatment, met their parents, and discussed with them about their problems.

“I have also discussed about AES in Muzaffarpur with top health officials.”

Meanwhile, SKMCH and Kejriwal Hospital in the city continue to receive fresh cases with symptoms akin to AES. The two hospitals are reverberating with the cries and wails of helpless parents as children continue to die of AES.

Meanwhile, the Central government has deployed a team of scientists from Patna-based Rahendra Memorial Research Centre to Muzaffarpur to help provide proper treatment to children suffering from the disease.

Acute Encephalitis Syndrome is a severe case of encephalitis transmitted by mosquitoes. It is characterised by high fever and inflammation of the brain.

AES outbreaks are a routine in summer in areas in and around flood-prone north Bihar districts, where the disease is locally known as “Chamki Bukhar” or “Mastishk Bukhar”. The epidemic mostly affects children from poor families, below 10 years of age.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had earlier said the Health Department was keeping a close watch and had directed people about the preventive measures. “Ahead of rains (monsoon), every year this disease creates havoc. It is a matter of concern that every year children die due to it.”