Mystery shrouds death of 138 children

Mystery shrouds death of 138 children

Renu Kumari, with her daughter Varsha, at SKMCH, shares her bed with other patients too (L), SKMCH is flooded with kids afflicted with suspected AES (Right top) and mothers make a serpentine queue to get their kids admitted in the Muzaffarpur hospital. (Right down). DH photos by Abhay Kumar

Till two days back, Renu Kumari was not sure whether her five-year-old daughter Varsha would survive or not. Varsha had complained of high fever, followed by convulsions. As a result, Renu, a resident of Meenapur village in Muzaffarpur, shifted her tiny tot to Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH), the epicentre, where hundreds of other kids are undergoing treatment for ‘chamki bukhar’.

In local parlance, the acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) is called ‘chamki bukhar’, although doctors and experts have vehemently denied that the kids’ deaths, altogether 138 till date, took place due to AES.

“Whatever be the nomenclature - chamki bukhar, AES or high fever, the fact is that my daughter is now well after being administered proper medicine here at SKMCH. And we are waiting to be discharged,” Renu told Deccan Herald here on Wednesday, as her daughter, much like other kids, shared the hospital bed with other children afflicted with a similar mysterious disease.

Renu was one of the fortunate parents who saw their child survive at a place where there is a mad scramble to get kids, afflicted with suspected AES, admitted. Although mystery shrouds whether the kids died due to the toxin in unripe litchi (juicy fruit), viruses, bacteria, fungi or parasites.

More Deaths

“Three more children have died on Wednesday. While 16 new patients have been admitted to the hospital,” the Medical Superintendent of the SKMCH, Dr SK Shahi told Deccan Herald.

Shahi hopes the casualty figure would be arrested as more doctors have been pressed into service from Patna and Darbhanga. “Doctors have been sent from NMCH and PMCH, Patna, besides DMCH in Darbhanga,” he added.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who visited SKMCH on Tuesday and faced angry protest from parents, has ordered that the 600-bed hospital be upgraded to 1500-bed hospital. However, questions are being raised that when Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, had himself ordered upgradation of SKMCH way back in 2014, why the premier hospital in Muzaffarpur (which is flooded with kids every summer suffering from AES) was left gasping. Harsh Vardhan, like 2014, has announced in 2019 (after his visit to SKMCH on June 16) that the Centre would construct a 100-bed ICU here by April 2020.

As an array of politicians and bureaucrats make a visit to the SKMCH, one ray of hope is Dr Shahi and his team (which includes Dr GS Sahni, HoD, Paediatrics department), who have been working tirelessly to stem the rot. “Altogether 118 children have been discharged after proper medication, while 372 are undergoing treatment,” the medical superintendent said.

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