Bihar is in the grip of yet another seasonal outbreak of encephalitis that has claimed the lives of at least 16 children in the Magadh division in less than three weeks.
As on Sunday, the government-run Magadh Medical College and Hospital (ANMMCH) in Gaya district reported at least 65 admissions from four districts in the division, making it the second major encephalitis outbreak to occur in the state within a span of less than two months.
Water-logging, resulting from rains, compounded with poor drainage systems in the division, is being suggested by government health authorities as the chief cause of this latest vector-borne disease bout.
In June this year, encephalitis claimed the lives of at least 50 children along the Tirhut range, in an epidemic of light proportions, with most of the cases seen in and around Muzaffarpur district.
Cases came flooding in from Gaya, Nawada, Aurangabad and Chatra (in neighbouring Jharkhand) districts during the past fortnight as hospital authorities frantically coped with young children convulsing in rheumatic pain, anxiously flanked by near-hysterical parents.
At least 10 of the 16 casualties have tested positive for Japanese Encephalitis (JE), said medical authorities at the ANMMCH, with most of the admissions belonging to the vulnerable Maha Dalit sections of society.
“A JE positive report on these cases was confirmed during the Immunoglobulin M (IgM) tests,” said Dr. Sitaram Prasad, Superintendent of the ANMMCH. The children, aged between 1 and 11, were from the fringe areas of the division, which were predominantly paddy-cultivation zones, opined Dr. Prasad while pointing to water-logging during the rainy season as a major breeding ground for the propagation of vector-borne diseases.
Principal Health Secretary Amarjeet Sinha told The Hindu that the deceased were usually in the terminal stages, while stating that the number of admissions was steadily on the wane. Meanwhile, Mr. Sinha said a team from the Rajendra Memorial Research Institute of Medical Sciences (RMRI) had been dispatched to Gaya to collect samples for Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing.