Bihar's mystery disease identified as toll rises to 41

"It is not a mysterious disease, it is encephalitis that killed children," said Dr I.P. Choudhary, a member of the central medical team from New Delhi.

But state Health Minister Ashwani Kumar Choubey said: "It was not proper to term it as encephalitis."

"Only the type of encephalitis has to be identified now. It will take some more time till clinical test results are available," Choudhary told IANS on phone from Muzaffarpur.

According to a district health official, in the last the 24 hours, six more children have died of this disease, taking the deaths in the state to 41 by Thursday morning.

"Three children died in Muzaffarpur's hospitals Thursday morning and two died late Wednesday and one died in a village," a district health official said.

All the children died after they got  high fever followed by convulsions and unconsciousness. Locals have repeatedly been terming the disease as "chamki ki bimari", saying the symptoms were similar to those of encephalitis, which causes inflammation of the brain.

Two expert teams - one from Pune-based National Institute of Virology and another from the central health ministry - visited hospitals in Muzaffarpur Tuesday and Wednesday where dozens of children are undergoing treatment.

Principal Health Secretary Amarjeet Sinha said the experts also collected samples of mosquitoes and animals to identify the cause of the disease.

Over three dozen children are undergoing treatment in various hospitals in Muzaffarpur, Motihari and Patna.

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