Following Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s visit to Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) in Muzaffarpur district, Bihar Chief Secretary Deepak Kumar said the rise in child deaths due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome was because the patients were reaching the hospitals late.

Since most of the patients are from a very poor background, the Chief Minister has reiterated that the patients will not have to bear any expense in coming to hospitals. Their fares will be reimbursed and will be given Rs 400 at a flat rate.

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

The 50-bed ICU will be converted into a 100-bed care unit.

The government has also taken the decision to build a ‘dharamshala’ for the families of the patients.

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

A team will visit all houses where children have been affected, to know their socio-economic and environmental background. The team will assess their condition, poverty, sanitation and analyse if there was an environmental factor behind it.

CM Nitish Kumar said there was no dearth of doctors and that all of them were carrying out their duties. He has, however, directed some doctors to be brought from other hospitals.

Awareness is being created that children should not sleep on an empty stomach and be immediately brought to the hospital if they fall sick.

Earlier in the day, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar arrived at the Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital in Muzaffarpur district to take stock of the situation in the wake of 126 child deaths due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES).

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

Hundreds of angry protesters staged a demonstration on Tuesday against Kumar’s visit to Muzaffarpur district. The protest took place outside SKMCH, where Nitish Kumar arrived with Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi.

Of the 126 deaths, 108 have been reported from Muzaffarpur and the surrounding areas.

89 deaths were reported from Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital and 19 in Kejriwal Hospital.

Kumar had earlier expressed grief over the children’s death in Muzaffarpur and ordered payment of Rs 4 lakh as ex gratia to the next of the kin of the deceased.

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, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan earlier on Tuesday refused to talk to media on the AES outbreak in Bihar.

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.