The prevailing heat and humidity along with malnutrition contributed substantially to the deaths of children in Muzaffarpur’s Bihar due to Acute Encephalopathy (AE), revealed the Indian Medical Association (IMA) in its study that examined the reasons behind these deaths.

In a statement, the IMA said that dehydration, hypoglycaemia and the heat syndrome have played a significant part in actively spreading AE. The deaths of more than 100 children in Muzaffarpur have been reported due to the recent outbreak of acute encephalitis syndrome there.

The IMA announced that with the help of health awareness campaign, deaths in the area could be averted. “Tepid sponging, correction of dehydration and hypoglycaemia can start right from home. A programme on health awareness, free meals to children especially at night and public availability of ORS (oral rehydration solution) may be simple steps which may prevent further catastrophies,” it stated.

The IMA said that however high atmospheric temperature, humidity and malnutrition appear to play a role in the causation of this encephalopathy. It also stated that litchi consumption cannot be attributed as the major factor as even infants have been affected in Muzaffarpur.

The IMA said that affected children have to be given IV dextrose for correction of hypoglycaemia to prevent significant brain injury, and foolproof scientific, epidemiological study. Issuing a health advisory, the IMA has stated that children should avoid being exposed to sunlight, especially during peak temperature, and that they should have adequate intake of water.

It said the children who are exposed to heat should be given bathing immediately to reduce the ill-effects of exposure to higher temperatures and that medical attention should be given immediately when a child shows symptoms like fever, vomiting or generalised body ache or specific symptoms of encephalitis like unconsciousness or convulsions.

The IMA also asked parents of affected children not to try any home-based treatments and seek medical help from qualified medical practitioners only for them.