Bihar's mystery disease identified; toll up at 41



Patna: The mystery disease that has rocked Bihar and killed six more children by Thursday morning, has at last been identified. It is encephalitis, an official said today. The latest deaths have pushed the toll in the state to 41 children in the past 10 days.

"It is not a mysterious disease, it is encephalitis that killed children," said Dr IP Choudhary, a member of the central medical team from New Delhi.

But state Health Minister Ashwani Kumar Choubey said: "It was not proper to term it as encephalitis."

"Only the type of encephalitis has to be identified now. It will take some more time till clinical test results are available," Choudhary said on phone from Muzaffarpur.

According to a district health official, in the last the 24 hours, six more children have died of this disease, taking the deaths in the state to 41 by Thursday morning.

"Three children died in Muzaffarpur's hospitals Thursday morning and two died late Wednesday and one died in a village," a district health official said.

All the children died after they got high fever followed by convulsions and unconsciousness. Locals have repeatedly been terming the disease as "chamki ki bimari", saying the symptoms were similar to those of encephalitis, which causes inflammation of the brain.

Two expert teams - one from Pune-based National Institute of Virology and another from the Union Health Ministry - visited hospitals in Muzaffarpur on Tuesday and Wednesday where dozens of children are undergoing treatment.

Principal Health Secretary Amarjeet Sinha said the experts also collected samples of mosquitoes and animals to identify the cause of the disease.

Over three dozen children are undergoing treatment in various hospitals in Muzaffarpur, Motihari and Patna.

IANS