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In June 2019, an outbreak of acute encephalitis syndrome occurred in Muzaffarpur and the adjoining districts in Bihar state of India, amidst the second-longest heatwave in the region,[1] resulting in deaths of more than 100 children, mainly due to hypoglycemia.[2][3]

2019 Bihar encephalitis outbreak
Bihar district location map Muzaffarpur.svg
Location of Muzaffarpur district in Bihar
Date1 June 2019 (2019-06-01)
LocationMuzaffarpur and adjoining districts, Bihar, India
TypeEncephalitis
Deaths152<

HistoryEdit

Outbreaks of acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) have occurred previously in the northern regions of Bihar state and eastern regions of Uttar Pradesh state of India. The first case of AES in Muzaffarpur district was recorded in 1995.[4][5][6] There were 143 deaths in 2013, 355 in 2014, 11 in 2015, four in 2016, 11 in 2017 and 7 in 2018.[4][7] In most recent years, the death toll had remained under 20.[5]

OutbreakEdit

In June 2019, an outbreak of AES occurred in 222 blocks of Muzaffarpur and the adjoining districts in Bihar.[5][8]

As a result of the outbreak, since 1 June 2019, 85 children died at the Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH), the largest state-operated hospital in Bihar, while 18 children died at the Kejriwal Matrisadan, a trust-run hospital.[7][2] Most of them were aged between 1 and 10 years.[9][10][11] A total of 440 cases of AES were admitted to hospitals since 1 June 2019. As of 18 June 2019, 154 were being treated in hospitals.[7]

SyndromeEdit

The term acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) was coined by the World Health Organisation in 2008.[12] The symptoms of AES include an acute onset of fever and associated clinical neurological manifestations such as mental confusion, disorientation, delirium, convulsions, or coma.[12][13] Early symptoms include headaches and vomiting, along with sudden hypoglycemia (drops in blood sugar levels), but may lead to coma, brain dysfunctions, and inflammation of the heart and lungs. Those that survive AES may have long-term neurological weaknesses.[14] The severe hypoglycemia can cause death.[15] The syndrome is locally known as chamki fever in Bihar.[11]

CauseEdit

The cause of the outbreak is unclear.[16]

AES can be caused by different microorganisms including virus, bacteria, fungi, parasites and spirochetes, as well as chemicals and toxins. AES mostly affects children below 15.[12][17] In India, AES was chiefly associated with Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) before 1975. The JEV cases and outbreaks became more frequent and endemic regions developed between 1975 and 1999. After 1999, non-JEV cases and outbreaks of AES were increasingly reported caused by other viruses including Chandipura virus (CHPV), Nipah virus (NiV), and enteroviruses. After 2012, it is observed that the cause shifting to JEV.[12][13] Initial examination shows little sign of the JEV or other viral routes in the affected children.[5] A study by AIIMS Patna found the presence of enterovirus.[18]

High temperature, humidity, malnutrition, poor hygiene and lack of awareness are known aggravating factors of AES.[19][7][19][4] Cases of AES tend to occur during the country's monsoon season.[14] Since 1 June 2019, the temperature in Muzaffarpur has remained above 40 °C (104 °F) and the rains were delayed which may have aggravated the situation.[7][18] Poverty and malnutrition is widespread among children in the region. Malnourished children lack a buffer stock of sugar as glycogen in the liver which puts them at higher risk of hypoglycemia.[18][20][16] Awareness campaigns were carried out in March–April 2019 but were not conducted later due to the 2019 Indian general elections. The local administration was not watchful due to the few cases of AES in recent years.[7]

 
Lychee fruits, which naturally include toxins related to encephalitis, are suspected to have been a contributing factor in the outbreak.

The region is the largest producer of lychee fruits in India. A 2014 study published in Lancet found that the methylene cyclopropyl acetic acid and hypoglycin A found in unripe lychee fruit can cause hypoglycemia and cited them as plausible cause of AES outbreaks. A diet heavy on unripe lychee fruits without having an otherwise full meal later in the day may put malnourished children at risk of hypoglycemia.[15][5][19][18] Others disputed the findings citing the unlikeliness of very large consumption of unripe lychee fruits, lack of cases in well-nourished children and many other pediatric illnesses causing hypoglycemia.[21][18][20] Health officials reported that most of the victims suffered severe hypoglycemia.[22][23]

The hospitals and primary health centres lacked the required facilities to treat children.[7]

Government responseEdit

Chief Minister of Bihar Nitish Kumar announced an ex gratia payment of 4 lakh (US$5,800) to the next of the kin of the children who died from AES.[11][9] He also visited the hospital and ordered the expansion of the hospital.[2][24]

The union minister of health Harsh Vardhan visited and announced the set-up of 100-bed pediatric ward at the SKMCH as well as five virology laboratories in Bihar. He also announced the upgrade of the India Meteorological Department’s observatory in Muzaffarpur for better study of climate. Seven pediatric intensive care units are being established. The interdisciplinary team consisting of experts from Indian Council of Medical Research, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, National Institute of Malaria Research; National Institute of Nutrition, National Institute of Virology; National Institute of Epidemiology and All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi was formed and sent to Bihar to study the syndrome and establish the cause.[7][25]

A Supreme Court bench has ordered the Bihar government to file an affidavit to show the competence of medical facilities and other hygiene conditions in the state in the wake of this.[26]

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) sent notices to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Bihar government over the deaths and asked for a report in four weeks.[19][7]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "India's heatwave turns deadly". Al Jazeera. 18 June 2019. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  2. ^ a b c "Nitish Kumar Visits Encephalitis Ground Zero, "Go Back" Cry Protesters". NDTV.com. Archived from the original on 18 June 2019. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  3. ^ "India encephalitis death toll rises to 103". BBC. 18 June 2019. Archived from the original on 17 June 2019. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  4. ^ a b c "Explained: What causes AES? What makes Bihar so vulnerable?". The Indian Express. Indian Express Group. 18 June 2019. OCLC 70274541. Archived from the original on 18 June 2019. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d e Slater J (17 June 2019). "Could the humble litchi fruit be behind a mysterious sickness that has killed nearly 100 children in India?". The National Post. ISSN 1486-8008. Retrieved 17 June 2019.
  6. ^ Dutta, Prabhash K. (17 June 2019). "Bihar encephalitis deaths: What Nitish Kumar may learn from Yogi Adityanath govt". India Today. Aroon Purie. ISSN 0254-8399. Archived from the original on 17 June 2019. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Heat, lack of nutrition, awareness add to AES, Bihar kids toll over 100". The Indian Express. Indian Express Group. 18 June 2019. OCLC 70274541. Archived from the original on 18 June 2019. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  8. ^ "India - Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in Bihar (DG ECHO, media) (ECHO Daily Flash of 17 June 2019) - India". ReliefWeb. Archived from the original on 18 June 2019. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  9. ^ a b "Encephalitis toll reaches 84 in Bihar's Muzaffarpur". India Today. Aroon Purie. 16 June 2019. ISSN 0254-8399. OCLC 321350054. Archived from the original on 17 June 2019. Retrieved 17 June 2019.
  10. ^ "Encephalitis: Death toll reaches 100 in Bihar". India Today. Aroon Purie. 17 June 2019. ISSN 0254-8399. OCLC 321350054. Archived from the original on 17 June 2019. Retrieved 17 June 2019.
  11. ^ a b c "100 Children Die Of Encephalitis In 16 Days In Bihar's Muzaffarpur". NDTV.com. Archived from the original on 17 June 2019. Retrieved 17 June 2019.
  12. ^ a b c d Ghosh S, Basu A (September 2016). "Acute Encephalitis Syndrome in India: The Changing Scenario". Annals of Neurosciences. 23 (3): 131–133. doi:10.1159/000449177. PMC 5043220. PMID 27721580.
  13. ^ a b Joshi R, Kalantri SP, Reingold A, Colford JM (July–August 2012). "Changing landscape of acute encephalitis syndrome in India: a systematic review". The National Medical Journal of India. 25 (4): 212–20. PMID 23278779.
  14. ^ a b "Encephalitis in India kills more than 90 children". BBC. 17 June 2019. Archived from the original on 17 June 2019. Retrieved 17 June 2019.
  15. ^ a b Shrivastava A, Kumar A, Thomas JD, Laserson KF, Bhushan G, Carter MD, et al. (April 2017). "Association of acute toxic encephalopathy with litchi consumption in an outbreak in Muzaffarpur, India, 2014: a case-control study". The Lancet. Global Health. 5 (4): e458–e466. doi:10.1016/S2214-109X(17)30035-9. PMID 28153514.  
  16. ^ a b "India encephalitis death toll rises to 103". 18 June 2019. Archived from the original on 17 June 2019. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  17. ^ Chaudhuri A, Kennedy PG (October 2002). "Diagnosis and treatment of viral encephalitis". Postgraduate Medical Journal. 78 (924): 575–83. doi:10.1136/pmj.78.924.575. PMC 1742520. PMID 12415078. Archived from the original on 18 June 2019. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  18. ^ a b c d e "Acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) explained: Definition, cause, and its contrary theories". The Indian Express. 17 June 2019. Archived from the original on 17 June 2019. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  19. ^ a b c d "Litchi Toxins, Malnutrition or Heat Wave? Doctors Explain What's Causing Deadly AES Epidemic in Bihar". News18. Archived from the original on 18 June 2019. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  20. ^ a b "'It's absurd to blame litchi for AES, malnourishment the real cause'". www.downtoearth.org.in. Archived from the original on 18 June 2019. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  21. ^ "Is Litchi the Real Culprit Behind 1995's Mysterious Muzaffarpur Child Deaths?". The Wire. Archived from the original on 18 June 2019. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  22. ^ "Encephalitis kills more than 100 children in India's Bihar state". www.aljazeera.com. Archived from the original on 18 June 2019. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  23. ^ Ramashankar, Mr. (17 June 2019). "Encephalitis: 20 more kids die in 24 hours, Bihar encephalitis toll hits 93". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 18 June 2019. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  24. ^ "Muzaffarpur Deaths: CM Calls for Hospital Expansion, Toll at 109". The Quint. 18 June 2019. Archived from the original on 18 June 2019. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  25. ^ "Bihar encephalitis deaths: Harsh Vardhan constitutes high-level multi-disciplinary team to monitor patients, find cause of viral disease". Firstpost. Archived from the original on 18 June 2019. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  26. ^ "Encephalitis deaths: SC directs Centre, Bihar govt to file response within 7 days".