As the death toll due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in Muzaffarpur reaches 109, Bihar government, on Tuesday, has addressed the media, sharing details of the steps taken by the administration to contain the outbreak of AES. The current death toll due to AES in the state is at 130.
When asked by Republic TV about the acute water shortage at hospitals and clinics where the affected children are being treated due to which they had been shifted to bigger government hospitals, Bihar chief secretary Deepak Kumar did not address the issue saying that the cases mentioned by the media were closer to Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) and hence preferred to avail treatment there.
"We have instructed people to take their children to the PHE clinic where all health facilities like saline drip are available. The cases you mention are blocks which are nearer to SKMCH. Hence the people I have talked to say that it is better to visit the hospital rather than the clinics. To avoid ambulance hassles, the government has said that we will reimburse any vehicle you take to the hospital," he said.
Rubbishing reports on lack of awareness among people about AES, he said that ASHA workers were still on ground reiterating awareness, adding that in many cases while parents were aware, they did not feed their children as they were asleep.
"Anganwadi, ASHA workers have been working for the past one week to reiterate the information about the disease by going door-to-door. Awareness campaigns have bee ongoing instructing people to feed food to their children, give them ORS and adequate water. Parents have claimed that they have not awakened sleeping children to feed them. Hence, awareness is there but not being implemented," he added.
Talking about the steps taken by the Bihar administration, he said that the Nitish-led government had taken four major steps to handle to situation. Citing it to be a major step, he said that the Nitish Government has decided to send a team to each of the victim's place to survey the situation in which children were kept. It has also decided to increase the number of beds in the SKMCH hospital general wards and in the ICU. He, however, said that the cause of the deaths has not been found until now.
"The number of beds in SKMCH hospital will be increased to 2500. In the next year, 100 beds will be added in the ICU and we will also build a dharamshala to shelter tired people travelling in the sun. But yet, we cannot find a clear cut reason for the deaths," he said.
Kumar also claimed that while the Deputy CM and CM was satisfied with the facilities in the hospitals, the administration was working to optimally use resources to save lives and would improve the infrastructure.
"While 200 children are still currently in the hospital undergoing treatment, we are using our available resources optimally to save lives, inspite of having infrastructural constraints," he added.
Meanwhile, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Tuesday, 17 days after the AES outbreak, visited the Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital in Muzaffarpur, however, did not interact with the media or the protesting people outside the hospital. As per reports, the Chief Minister had earlier announced an ex-gratia of Rs 4 lakh for each child who succumbed in the outbreak.
Locals have said to Republic TV that while a water tanker arrived when the Chief Minister visited, it left when he left. They further claimed that doctors are referring patients to Patna and are not giving them ambulances adding that while prescriptions have been given, medicines are still unavailable.
Muzaffarpur district administration has cited excessive heat and humidity, hypoglycemia, eating litchi on an empty stomach as some of the reasons for this condition. They have also said that some of the patients who died in areas of extreme heat and humidity. They added that malnourishment was the major reason due to which they were unable to cope. Principal Secretary (Health) Sanjay Kumar had said a few days ago that the disease had affected 222 blocks in 12 districts, especially in Muzaffarpur, Vaishali, Sheohar and East Champaran