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Saturday, June 22, 2019

Child Deaths in MUZAFFARPUR: Can the ‘brain fever’ be prevented ?

114 children to die this month from Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES)

114 children have now died of encephalitis — or "brain fever" — this month in Bihar, India, which is also facing a heatwave. Local hospitals are overcrowded with too few doctors to treat almost 200 children currently admitted, including at least 11 who are in critical condition.The deaths were preventable, doctors say, if poor families had access to good food, clean water and better medical care in Muzaffarpur district, 80 km (50 miles) from the state capital Patna.

The epidemic has sparked a debate over growing inequality in India and focused attention on a free healthcare scheme for the poor - known as “Modicare” after Prime Minister Narendra Modi - eight months after it was launched.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar faced angry protesters this week as he made his first visit to the state-run Sri Krishna Medical College, where most of the children have died.

The National Human Rights Commission has asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and Kumar state authorities to report any “possible flaw” in implementation of vaccination and awareness programmes.

An editorial in the Hindu newspaper Tuesday said the deaths could have “easily been prevented with some foresight and early care”.

It said in 2014 an Indo-US expert team had saved 74% of sick children through a simple medical intervention.

“It is appalling that this year the government failed to raise awareness on this strategy.”

Bihar is one of India’s poorest states and home to almost 100 million people. It has also been hit by a heatwave in recent weeks with temperatures of 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) that has left 91 people dead since the weekend.

Most of the children affected by the brain fever come from poor families who struggle to get even one healthy meal a day. Often the kids eat the free-growing lychees on an empty stomach.