Hospitals in Bihar run out of space as hundreds of children admitted with fever

Most health experts have said the hundreds of children admitted to hospitals in Bihar not COVID-19 positive or infected with Acute Encephalitis Syndrome

By Mohd Imran Khan
Published: Tuesday 07 September 2021
A child in Bihar's Muzaffarpur.

After dengue claimed the lives of over 36 children in Firozabad, Uttar Pradesh, hundreds of children have been admitted to hospitals across neighbouring Bihar with complaints of what appears to be viral fever. Several children have also reportedly died in some districts.

The families of so many children have sought to admit their wards to hospital that health authorities are struggling to find space, in scenes reminiscent of the second wave of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Bihar.

In Patna, all four major hospitals — the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, the Patna Medical College and Hospital, the Nalanda Medical College and Hospital and the Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences — are crowded with children suffering from viral fever.

All the 108 paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) and neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) beds in these major hospitals have been full since September 6, 2021.

Lokesh Tiwary of the paediatric department at AIIMS Patna said most of the children were suffering from fever, cold and cough, joint pains, headaches, breathlessness and weakness.

But it was difficult to say whether this was the result of seasonal or viral fever. “We don’t know the real cause for this,” Tiwary said.

In Muzaffarpur, the condition of more than 55 of 150 children admitted to hospitals in the district in the last 24 hours is critical.

Some 230 children are undergoing treatment at Muzaffarpur’s Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) and Kejriwal Hospital. PICU and NICU beds at both hospitals are full.

Gopal Shankar Sahni, head of SKMCH’s paediatric department, said the hospital was the only advanced medical facility equipped to treat serious cases in Muzaffarpur as well as its neighbouring districts.

Many children from Siwan, Gopalganj, Sitamarhi and East Champaran have been admitted in the PICU ward of the hospital.

“Mostly toddlers have been affected by the viral fever. It is not yet clear as to whether this viral fever is the result of a variant of SARS-CoV-2. Five children had tested negative for COVID-19,” Sahni said.

In Bhagalpur’s Jawahar Lal Nehru Medical College and Hospital, more than 20 children are undergoing treatment for viral fever.

At least three children have died at the Sirsa Khemkaran Tarapur village under the Amnaur block in Saran district in the last four days. Villagers have claimed that nearly 60 children in the village are suffering from fever. Saran Civil Surgeon Sukumar Prasad confirmed that children have been suffering from fever and a medical team is camping there for providing treatment.

In Gopalganj district, one child died after suffering from viral fever. After that, the district administration cancelled the leave of all doctors and medical staff.

Ironically, Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey is busy in meetings with Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and has not expressed any concern yet for the growing number of children suffering from viral fever in the state.

So far, there have been no reports that children admitted to hospitals have been diagnosed with either COVID-19 or Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES).

AES cases were reported from five north Bihar districts in 2019. More than 150 children had died. More than 600 children suffering from AES were admitted to hospitals, including SKMCH and nearly 450 recovered.

Locally known as Chamki Bukhar, it has claimed the lives of more than 500 children in the previous decade. The most affected areas were Muzaffarpur, Vaishali, Sitamarhi, Samastipur, Sheohar and East and West Champaran.

AES is characterised by acute fever and clinical neurological conditions such as convulsions, weakness and confusion.

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