Encephalitis: NHRC notice to Centre, Bihar govt over rising deaths of children in Muzaffarpur

New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission Monday sent notices to the Union Health Ministry and Bihar government over reports of increasing deaths of children due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in Muzaffarpur, a senior official said. 

A total of 103 children have died of suspected Acute Encephalitis Syndrome in Bihar, where doctors strike has paralysed medical and health services. Most of these victims are from Muzaffarpur.  

"The NHRC has taken suo motu cognisance of media reports about the rising number of deaths of children due to acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) in Muzaffarpur district of Bihar in the past few days," the official said.

The commission has issued notices to the secretary, Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and the chief secretary of Bihar, seeking a detailed report, including on the status of implementation of the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Japanese Encephalitis Virus/Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (NPPCJA) and other steps taken to deal with the painful situation, the NHRC said in a statement.

"The commission would also like to know about the status of the treatment being provided to the children, who are currently hospitalised, and the relief or rehabilitation provided by the state to the aggrieved families," it said.

The response is expected within four weeks, the NHRC said.

The commission has observed that in spite of reported measures taken by the government agencies, deaths of children in such a large number indicate towards a "possible flaw" in proper implementation of the vaccination and awareness programmes.

"Not only vaccination, but all precautionary measures such as cleanliness and hygiene are also required to be taken sincerely to ensure that kids do not fall prey to the fatal disease. It is a case of violation of human rights of the victim children and their families, as the state appears to have failed to protect the young innocent lives," the rights panel said in the statement.

Expressing serious concern over the spread of fatal viral infection, the NHRC has further observed that encephalitis has claimed lives of "a large number of children" in India.

Sometimes back, Gorakhpur district of Uttar Pradesh was hit by Japanese Encephalitis wherein about 60 children lost their lives.

The commission was informed that the Centre has introduced the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Japanese Encephalitis Virus/Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (NPPCJA). Reports mentioned various measures being taken to control the virus.

Six children died on Monday in Bihar's Muzaffarpur district, taking the toll due to suspected case of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome to 103.

According to a release issued by the district administration, 18 deaths were reported from Kejriwal hospital in the district and 85 from Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH), where Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had visited the patients on Sunday and assured their families of all possible help from the Centre.

Vardhan Monday issued directions for immediately sending another high-level team to Muzaffarpur to set up a state-of-the-art multi-disciplinary research centre in the wake of these deaths.

"I assure the people of the area, especially the affected families, that the government will extend all possible help and measures to the state government," he had told reporters in Muzaffarpur.

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