Patna: Alarmed at the large number of deaths in the state due to encephalitis, the Bihar government is working on a plan to start free evening meals for children vulnerable to the deadly virus.
The idea is based on reports by health experts that most of the children who fell victim to the illness had gone to bed on empty stomachs or had suffered from hypoglycemia or low blood sugar.
According to an official report, the disease has claimed close to 2,000 lives in the past nine years.
“The government is planning to start free evening meals for children on the pattern of the mid-day meal from the next season and also shifting them to temporary shelter homes during the peak summer when such cases register a huge jump,” federal minister of state for home and family welfare Ashwini Kumar Choubey told the media on Monday after holding a meeting with the experts.
However, the arrangement for free evening meal will be available only for two months during peak summer. Experts have found that the disease strikes the region once the summer starts and turns deadlier with the picking up of daytime temperatures.
Although some 20 districts are said to be in the grip of this disease, Muzaffarpur has been the worst-hit of all.
According to him, the government would also be making adequate arrangements of glucose, oral rehydration solution (ORS) and medicines.
“After meeting with the health experts, we have ordered the setting up of intensive care units (ICUs) in the affected areas from next year,” the minister said.
Bihar health minister Mangal Pandey on Monday said this year majority of children had died from hypoglycemia, which is one of the symptoms of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES).
One of the main reasons behind disease outbreak this year was severe heat conditions and humidity. He advised the parents not to allow their children go out in the open sun.
“When the children play under the open sun, it causes dehydration and affects a child’s intake of food and water which leads to hypoglycemia,” the minister said.
In an official statement issued on Monday, the health minister said the disease has been occurring since 1995 after which various studies were conducted by the National Institute of Virology, Pune, National Centre for Disease Control, Delhi, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi, Rajendra Memorial Research Institute, Patna and Centre for Disease Control, Atlanta (USA) but no definitive causative agent has been found so far.
According to the minister, till June 28 this year a total of 720 cases of suspected encephalitis were reported of which 566 were cured whereas 154 children died.