Written bySiddhant Pandey ·
While some claimed the deaths are hypoglycemia-related, others said the deaths were caused by litchis.
Meanwhile, a team of doctors has released an independent report, claiming the deaths were caused by something else altogether: asbestos.
For decades, Bihar's Muzaffarpur district and its adjoining regions have witnessed seasonal deaths of children each year.
Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES)- locally known as Chamki Bukhar- is cited as the reason.
AES is a severe case of viral encephalitis, characterized by inflammation of the brain. Symptoms include high fever, headache, vomiting, delirium, seizures, etc.
Commonly, it is caused by the Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV).
According to NDTV, the independent study was conducted by a group of doctors, including those from All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), who are treating the children admitted to the Sri Krishna Medical College Hospital in Muzaffarpur district, the epicenter of the outbreak.
The team visited the homes of many of the children who died in the past few weeks.
Dr. Harjeet Singh Bhatti, who is leading the team, said, "Besides issues like too much heat and malnutrition, we found that most of those who died were living in asbestos sheet home where the temperature in the night too doesn't go down."
Dr. Bhatti added most parents said they don't receive ration or ORS packets, which are supposed to be distributed mandatorily from March.
Asbestos is a group of six naturally occurring fibrous minerals, which can lead to several cancers and diseases. Asbestos dust can be inhaled or ingested by accident, which can lead to inflammation, scarring and even genetic damage over decades, making it highly toxic.
Additionally, the team also found that most children in affected areas weren't vaccinated against Japanese encephalitis, NDTV reported.
It was also found that most affected children had a metabolic disorder relating to mitochondrial dysfunction. This resulted in multi-organ failure and high levels of toxic ammonia, causing death, the report added.
The team also excluded litchi as a possible reason behind deaths.
The doctors, however, highlighted the failures of government hospitals.
SKMCH has four doctors and three nurses checking on over 500 patients that show up at the out-patients department (OPD) every day, NDTV reported.
The team also added that most homes they visited didn't have access to safe drinking water and had poor hygiene, which leaves undernourished children more susceptible to encephalitis.
An earlier socio-economic survey covering 289 Muzaffarpur families found 280 families were living below the poverty line. Nearly half of Muzaffarpur's children under five are stunted, almost 60% are anemic, and over 40% underweight, a National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-4 stated.
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