New Delhi: As many as 162 children died due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in Bihar till July 2 this year, while 63 fatalities were reported from Assam, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Manipur, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal till June 30, minister of state for health Ashwini Choubey said on Tuesday.
Responding to a question over whether litchis were the cause of deaths, the minister, in his written reply in Rajya Sabha, said consumption of litchi is safe for healthy individuals, but in “malnourished children, it triggers hypoglycaemia and leads to seizures or AES”.
“A research study was conducted by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), along with partner institutions, in the year 2013-14 wherein it has been found that when litchi is consumed by malnourished children, it triggers hypoglycaemia and leads to seizures or AES-like picture,” Choubey said in his written reply.
On the basis of the study, an intervention strategy for awareness and nutritional supplementation was recommended to the state, the minister said.
A comprehensive study incorporating various other aspects of aetiology has been initiated by the Ministry of Health under the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
“In 2019, a total of 162 deaths of children have been reported from Bihar till July 2 due to AES. As per information received from the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP), 63 deaths have been reported due to AES till June 30 from other seven states of the country – Assam (25), Jharkhand (2), Maharashtra (1), Manipur (1), Odisha (1), Uttar Pradesh (17) and West Bengal (16),” his reply stated.
He also elaborated on a number of measures that the Centre has initiated to support the Bihar government in the containment of AES, while adding that “as per constitutional provisions, health is a state subject”.
Choubey, in his reply, said Union health minister Harsh Vardhan had reviewed the situation with his counterpart in Bihar and also with officials from the ministry.
A team of experts, consisting of public health specialists from various central government institutes, was deputed to assist the Bihar government in taking immediate measures to contain AES, he said.
He said the health ministry had also sent another high-level multi-disciplinary team, which included senior pediatricians from various Central government institutes, to Muzaffarpur.
Epidemiologists from the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), senior pediatricians, laboratory technicians have been in Muzaffarpur since June 12.
The NCDC’s Strategic Health Operations Centre (SHOC) was engaged to monitor the situation in Muzaffarpur and co-ordinate tasks at the field level, Choubey said.
He said the health ministry had deputed five teams of doctors, along with technicians from Central government hospitals, to SKMCH to support clinical management.
“A Central team, consisting experts from Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), was also deployed at SKMCH. The team is also scrutinising and reviewing the case records of discharge and deceased patients using a standardised tool to know the reasons for mortality,” he added.