As many as 57 children have died of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in the last three weeks in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur. The deaths have been reported at Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital and Kejriwal Hospital.

Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan along with Union Minister of State for Health Ashwani Kumar Choubey on Friday visited Muzaffarpur to take stock of the situation.

He also held two meetings with the Bihar health minister and assured him of providing of all possible help.

So far 143 cases of AES have been reported from 11 districts of Vaishali, Sitamarhi, Sheohar, East Champaran, Patna, Nalanda, Muzaffarpur, Jehanabad, Gaya, Bhojpur and Aurangabad.

A five member team of the central government on Wednesday visited Muzaffarpur to investigate the cause of the deaths of children.

Meanwhile, taking outbreak of AES, 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.

The state government has directed concerned officials to control the situation. But Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey categorically stated that most deaths were caused due to hypoglycaemia (loss of sugar in the blood) and only one child died of Japanese Encephalitis (JE).

Principal Health Secretary Sanjay Kumar, said that most of children died due to hypoglycaemia.

According to Health Department officials, after reports of more deaths of children from AES, the state government has introduced the verbal autopsy form to fix responsibility of lapses in treatment and referral.

The Health Department has also issued an advisory urging parents to prevent their children from playing under the sun when temperature is hovering between 42 to 43 degree Celsius.

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 said the Health Department was keeping 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.”