New Delhi: Over 43 children, below the age of ten, died at two hospitals in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district this month after being admitted with acute encephalitis syndrome, which the state government did not cite as the cause of death, rather attributed most of them to hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar level).
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar expressed concern over the situation and directed the health department to ensure that primary health care centres and hospitals follow standard operating procedures to deal with the cases. A seven-member central government team is also likely to visit the hospitals soon and suggest guidelines.
AES cases has been challenge for the Bihar government since the time it was first reported in 1994. Several researches have only narrowed down to heat, humidity and malnutrition as the reasons. However, it is also because of the lack of preparedness and awareness campaigns to deal with the concerned problems.
Shri Krishna Medical College and Hospital and one other hospital took in 172 such patients since January – 157 of these were admitted in June and 43 of them died.
Dr Arun Shah, executive committee member of the Indian Academy of Paediatrics Association and a leading paediatrician in the district, said, “How can anyone say these are not AES cases? Hypoglycemia is just a part of it. A healthy child has a reserve of sugar, but a poor and undernourished child has no buffer stock of sugar in her body. Hot and humid weather, lack of cleanliness and malnutrition are the reasons behind AES incidence.”
He added, “It is very easy to hide behind the medical jargon of hypoglycemia. They should find ways to deal with hypoglycemia to tackle AES.”