The death toll due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) has risen to 117 in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur alone, according to reports.

Of the 117 child deaths, 98 have been reported at Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) and 19 at Kejriwal Hospital.

Earlier on Wednesday, Senior BJP leader and Bihar’s deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi came under fire after he asked the reporters to go out of his Press Conference on being asked about the deaths of children from suspected encephalitis.

The disease has reportedly killed over 150 children in Bihar over the past one fortnight although the officials confirm only 113 deaths.

Reporters attending the press conference of the deputy chief minister were left stunned when the latter kept on ducking questions over suspected encephalitis deaths turning into an epidemic form.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is no exception. He too ducked the same question on Tuesday when media people confronted him during a function organized in the Bihar assembly premises to pay tribute to Anugrah Narayan Singh on his birth anniversary.

Union Health Minister Dr Vardhan’s deputy Ashwini Kumar Choubey displayed even more insensitivity when he was found taking a nap during a press briefing over the deaths of children from suspected encephalitis. Choubey, however, claimed he was meditating by closing his eyes.

Earlier on Tuesday, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar visited the Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital in Muzaffarpur district to take stock of the situation.

This was the CM’s first visit to the district since the outbreak of AES.

Following his visit, Kumar announced a series of directions to be taken in view of the deaths.

He announced that the patients would not have to bear any expense in coming to hospitals and their fares will be reimbursed and will be given Rs 400 at a flat rate.

The state government further decided to convert SKMCH into a 2500-bed hospital, which currently has only 610 beds.

The government directed all ASHA workers, ANMs and Anganwadi workers to distribute Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) to all households and make them aware of its importance.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had on Monday sent notices to the Union Health Ministry and Bihar government over the rising death toll.

Meanwhile, Harsh Vardhan and Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey have been named in a case filed in a court in Muzaffarpur district on charges of negligence leading to the death of the children.

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

With the number of deaths rising every single day, social media users are livid with strong messages targeting several key functionaries, including Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, while others have even asked for their resignations.

“Nitish Kumar: A heartless man, a terrible friend, a disloyal ally and an awful Chief Minister,” wrote one user on Twitter.

“Disaster of Health and Education in Bihar. @NitishKumar. CM has time to visit Iftar party but it took 17 days for him to visit the Hospital. No water to drink in Hospitals. No Research yet on the unknown Disease. No beds in the Hospitals. Children dying for the last 10 years,” alleged another user.

“Shameless Nitish Kumar and Sushil Modi (Bihar Deputy Chief Minister). children are dieing (sic) due to non-availability of proper medical care and medicine. Bihar govt officials have time for enjoying party. Why Nitish Kumar is so insensitive towards death of children. Why central govt is silent spectator,” wrote another.

Earlier, Opposition leaders demanded the resignation of Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey on Monday for allegedly asking about the score during the World Cup cricket match between India and Pakistan, while he was at a press conference of Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan in Muzaffarpur district.