Patna: Four more children have succumbed to suspected encephalitis in Bihar`s Muzaffarpur and Gaya districts since Monday taking the death toll to 23 in nine days, officials said Tuesday.
The mosquito-borne disease claimed nearly 150 lives last year in the state.
This year, 15 children have died in Muzaffarpur and eight in Gaya.
Over three dozen children, suspected to be suffering from encephalitis, have been admitted to hospitals in both the districts.
"Nearly a dozen are battling for their life," said a health official.
The state government has directed the officials concerned to take measures including treatment of such patients.
"It is not yet confirmed why children are dying. I`ve asked top officials to identify the cause of deaths," said state Health Minister Ashwani Kumar Choubey.
However, former union health minister and doctor C.P. Thakur said the children were dying because of an encephalitis-like disease.
"The symptoms are similar to encephalitis," said Thakur, who is state president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, a ruling alliance partner of the Janata Dal (United).
Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Ram Kirpal Yadav said that despite children dying of suspected encephalitis, neither Chief Minister Nitish Kumar nor the health minister had visited Muzaffarpur.
Muzaffarpur civil surgeon Gayan Bhusan said the children died after contracting high fever followed by convulsions.
Encephalitis is a condition of acute inflammation of the brain resulting either from a viral infection or when the body`s immune system mistakenly attacks the brain tissue.