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Eight more children die of mystery disease in Bihar

The Bihar government voiced alarm after eight more children died in Muzaffarpur district, taking the toll from a mysterious disease sweeping the state to 28, officials said on Monday.

The children reported high fever, followed by bouts of unconsciousness and convulsions, leading to their death. Local people termed the mysterious disease as ‘chamki ki bimari’ and claimed that the symptoms are similar to encephalitis, a disease that causes inflammation of the brain.

Over three dozen children are undergoing treatment in hospitals but health officials are still unable to identify the disease.

Alarmed by the deaths, Bihar health minister Ashwini Kumar Choubey visited Muzaffarpur on Monday evening to take stock of the situation.

Interestingly, it was Choubey who had earlier described the soaring summer heat in the region as the cause of deaths three days ago.

“The situation in Muzaffarpur appears to be serious. We will take care,” Ashwini Kumar Choubey told IANS.

An official in chief minister Nitish Kumar’s office told IANS in Patna on Monday that Nitish Kumar held an emergency meeting with top officials and directed them to take immediate measures to tackle the situation in Muzaffarpur.

The chief minister asked the principal secretary of health department, Amarjeet Sinha, to send a team of experts to Muzaffarpur on Monday, the official said.

Nitish Kumar, who returned from a weeklong visit to China on Sunday, appealed to the union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad to immediately send a central team to Bihar to investigate the reasons behind the outbreak of the mystery disease.

According to reports, children with symptoms similar to those of encephalitis were also found in other districts like Sheohar, Gopalganj, East Champaran, Siwan and Sitamarhi.

“Eleven children suffering from similar symptoms from Gopalganj were admitted to a government hospital in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh’s Gorakhpur town for treatment and one child died of the mysterious disease in Motihari in East Champaran,” a local Hindi daily reported.

The district administration has sounded a high alert to check the spread of the disease.

Muzaffarpur Malaria Officer Dr Bhagirathi Prasad on Sunday told IANS on phone, “It is unfortunate that the cause of the deaths could not be ascertained till date.”

Dr Bhagirathi Prasad said a three-member team of experts from Patna visited hospitals in Muzaffarpur on Saturday to collect blood samples for test, but committed a blunder. “The team visited Muzaffarpur without courier agent to keep collected blood samples. It is nothing but a blunder,” he said.

Muzaffarpur civil surgeon Dr A P Singh earlier said, “We cannot say what disease led to the death of the children here. The disease is yet to be identified. Whether it is encephalitis or some unknown disease, we can say only after medical reports come.”

Official sources in the state health department in Patna said there was no facility to identify encephalitis in Bihar.

It is not the first time that Muzaffarpur is in news for deaths of children due to an unknown disease. Last year also over two dozen children had died but the state government failed to identify it.”

Local residents claimed it was encephalitis that kills children in Muzaffarpur year after year during May-June. [Source: IANS]

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