| A nurse attends to a child in SKMCH on Thursday. Picture by Lokesh Bihari |
A researcher from Vellore on Thursday pointed at malnutrition, instead of a suspected virus, as a probable cause for children falling ill in Muzaffarpur, while the US team camping in the town left with samples to identify reasons for the rising toll.
Jacob John, a researcher from Christian Medical College, Vellore, arrived in the town on Thursday to take stock of the situation. The health department has entrusted Jacob, who has done work in polio vaccination, with the task of detecting the suspected virus responsible for the outbreak of the disease.
He said: “The children are falling unwell not for any bacterial, viral or infectious attack but malnutrition. Children with low levels of glucose are falling ill. If the government can undertake campaigns to fight malnutrition and ensure proper dietary intake, the rising toll can be checked.”
Jacob had come around the first week of June. He took away blood samples of 25 children admitted in SKMCH and Hospital and Kejriwal Maternity Clinic for tests.
The government has groped in the dark to find the reasons for the outbreak of the suspected disease that claims several children every year. Around 109 children, including 62 from Muzaffarpur, have died in the district this year.
James Xavier, an encephalitis expert from Centre for Disease Control, Atlanta, also left for the US on Wednesday evening with clinical samples to identify the reasons for the outbreak of suspected acute encephalitis syndrome in the district.
Xavier camped at Shri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) for 12 and odd days to look to the ailing children.
He told The Telegraph: “We have collected 210 samples of blood and cerebrospinal fluid for scientific research in Atlanta to detect the mystery virus. Bihar can hope to get an idea on the mystery virus affecting children in Muzaffarpur and the adjoining districts in two months.”
He has taken to the US findings of the ailing children’s MRI and CT scans, along with their case histories.
High fever, headache, neck rigidity and convulsion, pain behind eye, nausea, vomiting, loose motion and loss of appetite are some of the symptoms of the suspected disease. This year, at least 595 cases have poured in from different areas in Muzaffarpur and its adjoining areas.
Of three suspected encephalitis cases reported at Motihari sadar hospital on Thursday, one was referred to the SKMCH. Union health minister Harsh Vardhan is also expected to visit the town on Saturday to check on ailing children and speak with the doctors and experts working towards treating them.
1 dead in Bhagalpur
Three-and-a-half-year-old Dilkush Kumar, a resident of Sonwarsha village in Bhagalpur’s Naugachia sub-division, died late on Wednesday evening of suspected acute encephalitis syndrome symptoms. He was admitted to Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital’s paediatric ward three days ago with high fever and headache.
The hospital’s head of department, paediatrics, R.K. Sinha, said inability to conduct virology tests was making diagnosis difficult and the doctors were treating patients based on symptoms.