Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan will visit Bihar's Muzaffarpur district, where more than 50 children have died due to suspected Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) so far.
A five member team of the central government on Wednesday visited Muzaffarpur to investigate the cause of the deaths of children.
"Harsh Vardhan along with Union Minister of State for Health Ashwani Kumar Choubey will visit Muzaffarpur to take stock of the situation," a state health department official said.
Meanwhile, taking outbreak of AES, central government has deployed a team of scientists from Patna based Rahendra Memorial Research Centre to Muzaffarpur to help provide proper treatment to children suffering from the disease.
In Muzaffarpur, Shri Krishna Memorial College Hospital (SKMCH) continues to recieve fresh cases of symptoms akin to AES on Wednesday.
Anxiety grips SKMCH and Kejriwal hospital in Muzaffarpur, where over 100 seriously ill children with symptoms of AES have been admitted and undergoing treatment. The hospitals are reverberating with the cries and wailing of helpless parents as children continue to die of suspected Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES).
Some 55 deaths have been reported in the past 10 days, though the state Health Department has confirmed only 36 deaths of suspected AES during this period. Official figures put the number of reported AES cases this year at 48, up from 40 reported cases last year. Till Tuesday the health department had maintained deaths of only 11 children.
The state government has directed concerned officials to control the situation. But Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey categorically stated that most deaths were caused due to hypoglycaemia (loss of sugar in the blood) and only one child died of Japanese Encephalitis (JE).
Principal Health Secretary Sanjay Kumar, said that most of children died due to hypoglycaemia.
According to Health Department officials, after reports of more deaths of children from AES, the state government has introduced the verbal autopsy form to fix responsibility of lapses in treatment and referral. "We have a standard operating procedure for treatment of AES," said an official.
The Health Department has also issued an advisory urging parents to prevent their children from playing under the sun when temperature is hovering between 42 to 43 degree Celsius.
Acute Encephalitis Syndrome is a severe case of encephalitis transmitted by mosquitoes. It is characterised by high fever and inflammation of the brain.
AES outbreaks are a routine in summer in areas in and around flood-prone north Bihar districts, where the disease is locally known as "Chamki Bukhar" or "Mastishk Bukhar". The epidemic mostly affects children from poor families, below 10 years of age.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said the Health Department was keeping close watch and had directed people about the preventive measures. "Ahead of rains (monsoon), every year this disease creates havoc. It is a matter of concern that every year children die due to it."
SKMCH pediatrician Dr G.S.Sahni said: "In children, the symptoms of AES are high fever, body stiffness and loss of consciousness. We're informing the public to be aware of these."