Patna: Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Saturday that the central government would provide all possible help to Bihar in controlling a suspected encephalitis outbreak that has claimed the lives of more than 130 children so far.
"The central government would assist the Bihar government in all possible ways to control the disease to save the lives of children," Vardhan said while visiting hospitals in the state`s worst-hit Muzaffarpur district.
Harsh Vardhan is probably the first union health minister in the last one and a half decades who has visited suspected encephalitis-hit Muzaffarpur, a district health official said.
The official said the minister met children undergoing treatment in hospitals and their parents. He also spoke to the doctors treating the children.
"Harsh Vardhan directed the concerned health officials, including doctors, to give the affected children proper treatment," Muzaffarpur civil surgeon Gayan Bhusan said.
Vardhan is camping in Muzaffarpur Saturday night to hold discussions with officials and teams of health experts from abroad and across the country.
He said the central government would Sunday launch a campaign to ensure 100 percent immunization of children in states hit by a suspected encephalitis outbreak.
"Now, my priority is to ensure 100 percent immunization of children in encephalitis affected areas. I will launch this campaign from Muzaffarpur," he told reporters.
He admitted that malnourished and poverty-stricken children are easy victims of the disease.
"It is a dream of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to get rid of malnutrition and poverty soon," he said.
In the past three weeks, the suspected Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) has claimed the lives of 130 children in Bihar, mostly in Muzaffarpur.
The union minister said Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi has requested him to launch the initiative to check the disease.
The centre was serious about tackling the situation, he added.
The disease, limited to Muzaffarpur till last week, has now spread to Vaishali, Samastipur, Sheohar, East Champaran, Sitamarhi, Begusarai, Bhagalpur and Gaya districts of the state.
According to doctors, the AES is a severe case of encephalitis characterised by inflammation of the brain. Mosquitoes transmit the infection, causing high fever among the children.