In the wake of the deaths of children reported in the State’s Malda district due to consumption of litchi fruits, the West Bengal government on Wednesday advised people not to consume unripe litchis.

Minister of State for Health Chandrima Bhattacharya made a statement in the State Assembly describing the deaths as unfortunate but pointed out that there was no negligence on the part of the Malda Medical College and Hospital, where the deaths took place. At least eight children had died of an infection spreading through litchi fruits in Malda district earlier this month.

“There were no shortcomings in the treatment provided to the children. Most of the children were brought in a very acute condition,” she said. Teams from the State health department and the School of Tropical Medicine have visited the hospital and collected samples from the area, Ms Bhattacharjee said.

The Minister said that the deaths of children were caused by toxins present in unripe litchis. “But these toxins are not found in ripe litchis. So I appeal to the people not to consume unripe litchis. Particularly children should not be given unripe litchis,” Ms. Bhattacharjee said.

“Because of the toxin in unripe fruits the blood sugar drastically drops resulting in deaths among children,” she added.

Minister also pointed out that such death had taken place during the erstwhile Left Front government as well as in Bihar’s Muzaffarnagar, where large amounts of litchis are grown.

Soon after the Minister’s statement, Leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly Surjya Kanta Mishra, said that when such cases had occurred during the previous government it was found that was caused due to pesticides sprayed on litchi fruits.

“After the incidents were reported earlier this month, it was said some virus was responsible. Now, today we were told it is due to the presence of a toxin in unripe litchis,” Dr. Mishra who was the Health Minister during the Previous Left Front government said.

He urged the State government to find the exact cause of the disease and take the help of experts,

Vice-principal cum superintending officer of Malda Medical College and Hospital M. A. Rashid had earlier said that the deaths are being caused by a viral syndrome spreading from Litchi fruit.

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