Patna, There is a consensus among doctors, experts, health officials as well as parents that monsoon brings down cases of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district, the epicentre of the mystery disease that has claimed lives of 154 children in the state so far.
A week after the much-awaited monsoon entered Bihar and light to moderate rains lashed most parts including Muzaffarpur, more than farmers, it’s doctors, health officials and parents of children affected by AES, are happy.
For them, more than medicines, rains will not only check the epidemic of AES in Muzaffarpur and neighbouring districts, it will help more than 100 children affected by AES, still undergoing treatment in hospitals, to recover fast.
Gopal Shankar Sahni, Head Department of Paediatricts at the government-run Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) in Muzaffarpur, said the number of new cases of AES reported in last few days dropped drastically due to rains that cool down atmosphere.
After 132 children died due to AES in Muzaffarpur alone in June so far, doctors and heath officials are still in dark about exact disease and cause of deaths.
The state and Central governments are also clueless about it so far.
Health official said the disease is yet to be identified, and its cause remains unknown despite several researches undertaken by national and international medical experts in the past.
But one thing is clear: they are sure that rain will check the disease.
“Dozens of children were brought in the hospital before rains hit Muzaffarpur on June 22. After that, hardly a child has died in a day, unlike before,” another doctor of SKMCH said.
Doctors and health officials say that extreme hot weather along with humidity have triggered the outbreak of AES in Muzaffarpur annually for over two decades. They claim that pre-monsoon and monsoon rains is the last and only hope to fight the disease.
A study, conducted by the researchers of Central University of South Bihar, pointed that AES has a direct link with humidity and temperature, and once rain starts, the number of cases starts declining.
Sahni said much awaited monsoon rains is here to provide relief to children suffering from the disease and will help to suppress the virus causing the disease.
He was supported by Regional Additional Health director Dr Ashok Kumar Singh, based in Muzaffarpur.
“Three H — heat wave, humidity and hypoglycemia are causing deaths of children, who are suffering from symptoms akin to AES. Rains are necessary to reduce the temperature… it will reduce the affect of the disease.”
According to another senior doctor, fewer deaths from the disease were reported in 2018, 2017 and 2016 as the weather was neither extremely dry hot, nor very humid like this year.
“There were at least light pre monsoon rains in May and early June, unlike this year that helped outbreak of the disease,” he said.
None other than chief Minister Nitish Kumar on last week said something that linked the disease with hot weather and monsoon.” This disease broke out ahead of the rains and monsoon.It is a matter of concern that every year children are dying due to it.”
Rajiv Kumar, a doctor of Kejriwal Hospital in Muzaffarpur said it is a fact that monsoon rains check and control the disease and the scorching heat and humidity spread the disease more.
Doctors treating children said the outbreak of AES happened when temperature rose above 40 to 42 degrees Celsius in summer. In such a condition, the children’s body temperature would shoot up and he or she may face convulsion and weakness.
“We were praying for monsoon rains, only rain God can save our children,” Kali Ram, father of a 4-year-old child who is fighting for life at the hospital in Muzaffarpur, said.
Most of the victims of AES belong to poor and marginalised sections, including Dalits, Other Backward Classes (OBCs), Economically Backward Classes (EBCs) and Muslims.
“AES victims are mostly the malnourished children from underprivileged sections of society, they are from categories below the poverty line (BPL)”, said a district health official in Muzaffarpur.
After Chief Minister Nitish Kumar visited Muzaffarpur, the government has ordered a survey in blocks and villages which reported high death toll to study the socio-economic profiles of the affected families and their living conditions.
Initial data compiled by the survey team pointed poverty, malnourishment and poor living conditions as the background of most of the families affected by AES.
So far 720 cases of AES have been reported from 23 districts of the state this year, of which 602 are from Muzaffarpur.