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Nearly 100 Children Lose Battle to Encephalitis in Bihar; Angry Kin Confront Health Minister Harsh Vardhan

State government officials, however, maintained that majority of the victims had died due to hypoglycemia, a condition caused by very low level of blood sugar and electrolyte imbalance.

Pankaj Kumar | News18

Updated:June 17, 2019, 12:03 AM IST

Patna: The Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) has claimed 93 lives in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district ever since the disease broke out in the region in early June. Twenty children succumbed to the disease on Sunday alone, while over 250 children are admitted at two hospitals in Muzaffarpur.

State government officials, however, maintained that majority of the victims had died due to hypoglycemia, a condition caused by extremely low level of blood sugar and electrolyte imbalance.

Union Home Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan on Sunday visited Shree Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH), one of the two hospitals where the children have been admitted, to take stock of the situation. He was accompanied by his deputy Ashwini Choubey and Bihar health minister Mangal Pandey.

The situation turned grim as a five-year-old child died in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) while the three ministers were on a round in the hospital. The inconsolable parents of the child confronted the ministers. They were also faced with protests by the kin of the ailing children at the SKMCH.

Vardhan later held a meeting where he assured research would be undertaken at premier institutes to ascertain the cause of the disease so that the situation is not repeated.

"I assure the people of the area, especially the affected families, that the government will extend all possible help and measures to the state government," Vardhan said. He also assured that the Bihar government would open a high quality research center along with Intensive Care Unit with a capacity of 100 beds by June 2020.

Attributing heat and humidity as a possible reason behind the disease, the minister said the Ministry of Earth Sciences would help formulate an action plan with the state government to deal with the situation. The India Meteorological Department's observatory in Muzaffarpur will be also be upgraded, he said.

Vardhan asked health officials to expedite and complete the super specialty block of the SKMCH, so that other departments of the facility could extend help and cooperation in tackling with the disease.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar expressed grief over the deaths and announced Rs 4 lakh ex gratia to the next of the kin of the deceased, an official release said.

Vardhan’s cavalcade was stopped by protesters while he was returning from Muzaffarpur to Patna and black flags were waved at him. The police then resorted to mild baton charge to disperse the crowd. Vardhan was faced with protesting members of the Jan Adhikar Party (JAP) as soon as he landed at Patna airport and waved black flags at him.

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