With 13 more children dying in north Bihar in the past 24 hours due to a kind of fever whose causes are unknown, the death toll has gone up to 28 in the last one week. The official figure, however, is 22.
As the Bihar health administration grapples with the crisis, the Union health ministry announced that a central team of doctors would leave for Muzaffarpur on Tuesday.
The three-member team consists of Dr SK Jain, joint director of National Centre for Disease Control; BR Thapar, joint director of the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme; and Dr IP Choudhary, senior specialist (paediatrics) at the Safdarjung Hospital.
“An Indian Council of Medical Research expert from the Rajendra Memorial Research Institute of Medical Sciences, Patna, who is already in the field with National Institute of Virology (Pune) team, would also coordinate with this central the team,” a health ministry official said.
Fifteen children had died in Muzaffarpur, 75 km from Patna, last week. The toll rose by 13 more on Monday, even as reports of more children being admitted to hospitals in Motihari, 100 km from Patna, streamed in.
Health minister Ashwini Kumar Choubey rubbished rumours that it was an outbreak of encephalitis, the disease that kills several children every year between May and July in the same geographical area.
Bihar principal secretary (health) Amarjit Sinha, who visited the Medical College Hospital, which has reported 12 of the 28 casualties, also claimed “it was not encephalitis”.
Dr Sunil Kumar Shahi, deputy superintendent of the Shri Krishna Medical College, said, “The symptoms include severe headache, high temperature, nausea and vomiting followed by comtaose conditions.”
Choubey said, “Samples have been sent to laboratories in Pune and Kolkata.”