Patna: Six more children succumbed to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) at Muzaffarpur in Bihar in the last 24 hours, taking the toll to 66 on Sunday.
Besides the deaths, the number of patients has also shot up to 251, Muzaffarpur Civil Surgeon Dr Gyan Bhushan said.
"The ill children are coming from Sitamarhi, Sheohar, East Champaran, Vaishali and Samastipur districts. The most number of cases have been reported from East Champaran from where over 38 children have come for treatment," Bhushan said.
The sizzling heat and humidity are favourable conditions for the spread of AES, he said and pointed out that increased awareness about the disease had led to more hospitalisations.
"We are just keeping our fingers crossed. Our experience about the disease suggests that it will continue unabated till monsoon comes. Rains will bring down the temperature and control the spread of the disease," he said.
Researchers and scientists working since 1994, when they syndrome was first detected, have failed to isolate the virus, bacteria, fungus or any other agent which is causing it, Additional Secretary (Health) R K Ojha said.
In the absence of this identification, doctors have been able to provide only symptomatic treatment to the patients who are mostly below six years of age.
The symptoms vary from high fever, body ache, stiffness of limbs to meningitis and coma. Usually the syndrome affects malnourished kids, with very low sugar levels and plummeting levels of electrolyte in the body, he said.
The outbreak of AES is reported mainly from Assam, Bihar, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, which contribute around 80 per cent cases in the country.