The seven-member central team of medical experts which visited the Shri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) on Wednesday inspected all PICUs and ICUs where children affected from Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) were admitted.
The central team headed by Dr Arun Kumar Sinha while briefing to media said- the death of infants is not due to hypoglycemia i.e. low sugar level. The lowering down of sugar level cannot suddenly cause the death of children. Malnutrition is one common factor among admitted patients. In most cases, symptoms indicate an encephalitis outbreak.
Muzaffarpur District Magistrate, Alok Ranjan Ghosh also confirmed that the death of infants had symptoms similar to that of AES. The administrator of Kejriwal Matri Sadan (KMS), a private hospital of the city said that death over last month was due to AES.
This raises questions on the state government and its medical department who were hell-bent on considering low sugar level as the reason behind the death of infants.
Last week, the MLA representing Muzaffarpur assembly constituency, Suresh Sharma (also the urban Development Minister, Bihar government) convincingly claimed that children dying was a seasonal affair with low sugar level (hypoglycemia) and not due to the outbreak of any deadly disease.
Earlier on Monday, Principal Secretary of the Health Department Sanjay Kumar said the deaths were caused by Hypoglycemia (deficiency of glucose or sugar in the bloodstream), and not due to fever.
On Tuesday, Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Ashwani Kumar Choubey stirred controversy by blaming state government officials.
He said in Patna that “since state government officials were engaged in election-related works in the recent past months they could not make the awareness drive as it should have been…we’re careful and taking all measures to tackle the situation of the death of children in Muzaffarpur”.
Former Union Health Minister Dr. Harshvardhan had visited the SKMCH in June 2014 and had made several announcements, including- Setting up of a virology lab at the hospital to study the nature of diseases; Training of doctors (of both govt and private hospitals) to tackle the outbreak; SKMCH to have 100 bed Pediatric Intensive Care Units (PICU); Large scale immunization; Five medical colleges to have “Virology Lab” & Neighboring districts of Muzaffarpur to have 10 bed PICUs but nothing happened.
Till date, 118 children have been admitted for treatment and the death toll has risen to 62. According to doctors, high temperatures during summer, along with humidity more than the normal, is considered to be an ideal situation for the outbreak of AES, which has symptoms of high fever, vomiting, nausea and unconsciousness. Since 2010, 398 children have died in Muzaffarpur due to suspected AES.