The Telegraph
Sunday , May 11 , 2014
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Vellore specialist hints at new bug
- Doctor dismisses encephalitis as reason for children deaths

Patna, May 10: The reason for the deaths of hundreds of children every year in Muzaffarpur and adjoining areas is neither encephalitis nor Japanese encephalitis (JE). It’s acute encephalopathy, says an expert.

A spot assessment by T. Jacob John of Christian Medical College, Vellore, has revealed this fact. The state government had requested John to make an on-the-spot assessment to ascertain the reason behind the disease and recommend preventive measures.

John said: “Unlike encephalitis, which occurs because of virus infection, acute encephalopathy is a metabolic disease. This is caused because of low glucose level in livers of the children, which further makes their brains dysfunctional.”

In the last four years, 328 children have died of the disease. “The disease is prevalent in Muzaffarpur since 1980. During my visit to the area in 2013, I discovered that there was no brain inflammation in the affected children. This confirms it is not encephalitis,” John said.

Commenting on the cause of the disease John said: “This disease affects primarily weak and malnourished children. Litchi, which is grown in Muzaffarpur in large numbers, is also attributed to the disease. When physically weak children consume rotten litchis, their glucose level goes down. This affects their brains.”

This disease is common in litchi-growing areas like Bangladesh and Vietnam. “A blood test would confirm the the fact. We are sending blood samples of the affected children to Vellore and Lucknow for tests,” he said.

John suggested metabolic treatment for the disease. “A pilot nutrition programme would be launched in Muzaffarpur. This can be replicated in other districts for malnutrition correction,” John said.

However, health authorities insist that the cause of deaths of children in Gaya was Japanese encephalitis. A mass vaccination drive was launched recently to counter the disease. None of the 13 suspected cases of Japanese encephalitis has been confirmed.

“At present, Japanese encephalitis vaccination drives are on in Sheikhpura, Jamui, and Lakhisarai. The vaccination drive has already been completed in the 19 districts of the state,” a health official said.

A separate ward has been set up at Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH) and Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH), the official said.

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