Six children died on Monday in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district, taking the death toll to a suspected case of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) to 103. According to a release issued by the district administration, 18 deaths were reported from Kejriwal hospital in the district and 85 from Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH), where Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had visited the patients on Sunday and assured their families of all possible help from the Centre.
While doctors have maintained that the deaths occurred due to AES, state officials claimed that most of the victims, below the age of 10, have fallen prey to hypoglycemia, a condition caused by the low level of blood sugar, electrolyte imbalance due to high temperature and extreme humidity.
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On Monday, five more children died at SKMCH and one at the Kejriwal hospital, while the condition of 12 patients at the two hospitals was stated to be serious, the release said. Earlier in the day, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) sent notices to the Union Health Ministry and the Bihar government over reports of an increasing number of deaths of children in Muzaffarpur, a senior official said.
The commission observed that despite reported measures taken by the government agencies, deaths of children in such a large number indicate a “possible flaw” in implementation of vaccination and awareness programmes.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had on Sunday announced an ex gratia of Rs four lakh to families of each of the deceased. He directed the health department, district administration and doctors to take necessary measures to fight the disease.