Japanese Encephalitis (JE) has struck Gaya and its surrounding areas, claiming the lives of 16 children over the last three weeks.
The children were admitted to Gaya's Anugrah Narayan Magadh Medical College and Hospital (ANMMCH), where dozens of others are under treatment.
"On Friday night, eight of the children succumbed to the disease, three of them within an hour," said Dr Sitaram Prasad, superintendent, ANMMCH. "Till today, the hospital has admitted 56 children."
Children in the 11-12-year age group are the worst hit, Prasad said. The symptoms of the disease include inflammation of the brain, high fever, headaches, rheumatic pains, a stiff neck, convulsions and nausea.
Doctors say the disease is not limited to Gaya district. A few of the patients have come from Bihar's Aurangabad and Jharkhand's Chatra as well.
The ANMMCH and the Patna Medical College Hospital (PMCH) are running short of diagnostic kits. The ANMMCH authorities have already requested the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, to send kits at the earliest.
"I have also contacted the in-charge of JE at the Union health ministry to arrange for the direct supply of kits to the medical college hospitals," said head of department of microbiology, PMCH, Dr Shankar Prakash.
Principal secretary (health) Amarjeet Sinha who visited ANMMCH to assess the situation, has promised all help.
Gaya civil surgeon Dr Dileep Kumar said a team comprising four specialists from PMCH, four doctors from the Gaya district hospital and five from ANMMCH has been constituted to tackle the situation.
"Fogging and other preventive measures to control mosquito breeding have been intensified," Kumar said.