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Experts to probe acute encephalitis syndrome in Bihar

Panel to establish a research centre in worst-hit Muzaffarpur to probe the cycle of the disease

  • Published 18.06.19, 6:42 AM
  • Updated 18.06.19, 6:42 AM
  • a min read
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Children suffering from Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) being treated at a hospital in Muzaffarpur, Monday, June 17, 2019. (PTI)

The Union health ministry has asked a multi-disciplinary panel of experts to help Bihar combat an outbreak of acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) that has killed more than 80 children.

The panel will establish a research centre in worst-hit Muzaffarpur to probe the cycle of the disease and the environmental, weather and other factors that might influence its outbreaks, the ministry said.

The experts include a paediatrician from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, a neurovirologist from the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore, and a scientist from the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, among others.

Parts of Bihar and western Uttar Pradesh have been struggling with encephalitis outbreaks for over a decade. Although the outbreaks were initially attributed to Japanese encephalitis, a viral infection, they were later identified as unexplained encephalitis and classified as AES.

AES is a wider spectrum that includes Japanese encephalitis and a host of other forms of encephalitis caused by various viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites, spirochetes, chemicals and toxins. Often, the cause remains unknown.

“There’s an urgent need for an inter-disciplinary, high-quality research team to establish the cause of the disease,” Union health minister Harsh Vardhan said on Monday.

He said five virology laboratories would be set up in Bihar, their locations to be decided in consultation with the state government.

Harsh Vardhan has asked the state government to establish a 100-bed paediatric intensive care unit at the Sri Krishna Medical College Hospital, Muzaffarpur. The Centre will help the state set up 10-bed paediatric ICUs in adjoining districts.

The minister has also asked the state to post teams of doctors to health centres at least three or four months before the expected outbreaks.