New research links encephalitis to disability in Bihar

Most researches till now focused on cause of AES; this is the first to study children who survived the disease

By Alok Gupta
Published: Friday 13 February 2015


Researchers from All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) and UNICEF in Patna are suspecting that a large number of children who are survivors of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) might be suffering from mental or physical disability.

Research that was led by C M Singh of AIIMS, Patna and Ghanshyam Shethi of UNICEF claims that majority of AES-affected children might have suffered major damage in veins of their brain. “This might have led to minor to severe paralytic attack,” Singh said. Doctors did not rule out mental disability due to AES. Initial findings of the research have revealed that around 33 AES survivors in Muzaffarpur, 11 in Motihari and five in Sitamarhi have suffered disability in various magnitudes.

AES strikes during summer and monsoon season in Muzaffarpur, Motihari, Sitamarhi, Sheohar, Vaishali and Samastipur districts of Bihar. Official figures suggest that since 1994, Muzaffarpur alone has witnessed 995 AES-related deaths of children. Unofficial estimates put this figure at at least 1,800 for the entire state.

A series of leading researches till now have focused on causes of AES, a disease characterised by symptoms like seizure, low blood sugar and frothing among children, even leading to death. None of the researches, however, have been able to zero in on the cause of AES outbreak in these districts. While majority of researches suspect locally grown litchi fruit, other have blamed malnutrition, heatstroke and bats for spread of AES.

This is for the first time that the researchers have turned their focus on survivors of AES who might be suffering from disability. The final research paper is likely to be released by the end of this month. “We are completing the final data analysis and report would be released soon,” C M Singh said.

The initial finding of the research also points out that focus of providing relief and intensive care has largely remained limited to Muzaffarpur. Mortality rate is high in districts like Motihari where 34 out of 67 AES affected children died. In Muzaffarpur, 302 children were affected by AES and 79 died. Officials of state health department refused to comment on the AES related disability among children in the state.

Meanwhile, the state government and UNICEF, in a bid to save lives of AES-affected children, have prepared a standard operating procedure that focused on speedy treatment. 

Research, once released at the end of the month, is expected to put government in a difficult situation. The government will have to improvise the treatment that is given to children suffering from disability due to AES. None of primary health centres or district hospitals are equipped to deal with disabled children.


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