As many as 43 children below the age of 10 years have died at two hospitals in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district this month after being admitted with Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES).
AES is a communicable disease that is characterised by the onset of fever and inflammation of the brain and viral infection. Since January, 172 children aged below 10 have been admitted to the two hospitals with AES. Of them, 157 have been admitted since June 1 and all 43 deaths have been reported in June.
What is encephalitis syndrome?
According to the National Health Portal of India, Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) is the major cause of AES in India. The virus was clinically diagnosed in India for the first time in 1955 in the southern State of Madras (now Tamil Nadu) and was also reported in Bihar. During 2018, 10,485 AES cases and 632 deaths were reported from 17 states to the National Vector Borne Diseases Control Programme (NVBDCP) in India, with a case fatality rate around 6 per cent. AES cases were reported mainly from Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Manipur, Meghalaya, Tripura, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh.
Most people who contract encephalitis exhibit symptoms of flu such as headache, fever, muscles or joints aches and pains, fatigue or weakness, high fever, confusion, drowsiness and slower movements and irritability.
What is the most common cause of encephalitis?
The onset of acute fever creates change in mental status which leads to mental confusion, disorientation, delirium, or coma. The disease commonly affects children and young adults and can lead to considerable morbidity and mortality. Viruses are the main causative agents in AES cases, although other sources such as bacteria, fungus, parasites, spirochetes, chemicals, toxins and non-infectious agents have also been reported over the past few decades.