As many as 74 children are suspected to have died due to a mysterious Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) that has spread in Gaya, Muzaffarpur and Patna districts of Bihar in the last one month, according to health officials.
At least 197 cases have been reported in different parts of the state. Amarjeet Sinha, health principal secretary of the state, said that 34 children have died at the Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH) and 30 others at Sri Krishna Memorial College and Hospital (SKMCH) and Kejriwal hospital in Muzaffarpur. Nine children are said to have died in Gaya district.
However, Sinha and State Health Minister Ashwani Choubey have denied that the deaths have been caused by the mysterious Japan encephalitis (JE).
JE is a viral disease that is infects animals as well as human. It causes the swelling of membranes around the brain in humans.
It is caused by a viral infection or when the human body's immune system unknowingly attacks the brain tissues. JE is said to be the leading viral cause of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in Asia.
"Not a single positive case of suspected encephalitis or Japanese Encephalitis (JE) has been detected at PMCH," claimed principal secretary, health, Amarjeet Sinha according to Times of India.
PMCH's paediatrics department head Dr Sanjata Roy Choudhary also said that the children have showed signs of acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) with symptoms of fever and convulsion. "However, we haven't detected any case of JE or encephalitis so far," she said.
The symptoms of AES also include confusion, disorientation, coma, or inability to talk.
While the government denied any deaths due to JE cases in Muzzafarpur, two positive cases have been reported in Gaya.
However, the health minister on Friday said that the Government would open a separate ward from Monday in PMCH for encephalitis patients. Medical infrastructure has reportedly been put in place in hospitals to treat patients suspected of suffering from encephalitis. Routine immunization will be launched in several districts.
Many parents have blamed the government for not taking proper action against the spread of the disease, which occurs every year during the months of May and June. Last year, more than 400 people were said to have died from encephalitis in the flood hit northern India.