The Telegraph
Tuesday , June 17 , 2014
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Minister in virus knots

Patna, June 16: Health minister Ramdhani Singh seemed confounded when reporters asked what steps his department was taking to control the suspected encephalitis menace that has claimed around 70 lives in the state.

Ye encephalitis kya hai” (what is this encephalitis)?” he asked. A little prompting from additional secretary (health) R.P. Ojha and the minister was on surer ground. “Sir ye log Muzaffarpur wale bimari ke bare mein puch rahein hain (Sir, they are asking about the disease in Muzaffarpur)”.

Just two days ago, the minister was in Muzaffarpur to take stock of the situation following spread of suspected acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) cases there.

While experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and a team sent by the Centre have not been able to zero in on the virus, the new health minister claimed: “Agle saal ye bimari nahi hogi. Itni vyavastha hum karenge (The disease won’t return next year. We will take proper steps).”

But he could not hazard a guess on the number of suspected cases in the state or how much the state was spending to pinpoint the cause of the disease.

Singh listed the initiatives taken by his department to contain an outbreak. “In Muzaffarpur, 25-30 ambulances are always ready to take patients to hospital. At least two attendants of patients are being provided food in hospital. Earlier, only the patient was being fed. Chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi has declared that relatives of children who died of the disease on June 12, 13 and 14 would be given Rs 50,000 each,” Singh said.