Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Tuesday 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 is the Chief Minister’s first visit to the district since the outbreak of AES.

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.

CM Nitish 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.

He also directed the officials of the Health Department and the district administration as well as doctors to take all possible measures to tackle the disease. The chief minister prayed for a speedy recovery of the children suffering from suspected AES.

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

“The NHRC has taken suo motu cognisance of media reports about the rising number of deaths of children due to acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) in Muzaffarpur district of Bihar in the past few days,” an official said.

The commission has issued notices to the secretary, Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and the chief secretary of Bihar, seeking a detailed report, including on the status of implementation of the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Japanese Encephalitis Virus/Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (NPPCJA) and other steps taken to deal with the painful situation, the NHRC said in a statement.

“The commission would also like to know about the status of the treatment being provided to the children, who are currently hospitalised, and the relief or rehabilitation provided by the state to the aggrieved families,” it said.

The response is expected within four weeks, the NHRC said.

Meanwhile, Union Health Minister 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.

The petition said that Harsh Vardhan and Mangal Pandey failed to fulfil their duties to control the outbreak of AES, while both had done nothing to create awareness and sensitise people in the affected areas despite the fact that AES had been killing children for years.

Meanwhile, officials maintained that a majority of the victims, most of whom were below 10 years of age, had fallen prey to hypoglycemia, a condition caused by a very low level of blood sugar and electrolyte imbalance.

Since June 1, 197 children were admitted to the SKMCH while 91 were taken to Kejriwal Hospital with suspected AES, but most of them were found to be victims of hypoglycemia.

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