NEW DELHI: When Arun Ram took his four-year-old daughter Sandhya Kumari to hospital in late May, he thought she was suffering from fever brought on by a seasonal virus.
But within 12 hours of her admission his daughter had died.
The initially mild fever had run out of control, causing mental disorientation, seizures and delirium.
Kumari was among more than 100 children who fell victim to acute encephalitis syndrome in the eastern Indian state of Bihar.
The state’s central districts of Muzaffarpur, Vaishali, Sheohar and East Champaran are worst affected. Official estimates suggest a death toll of 130, with 15 children under the age of 10 dying on Sunday alone.
Locally, the syndrome is known as “chamki” fever.
“In my hospital, 291 patients have been admitted, 91 have been discharged and 83 have lost their lives up until Monday,” said Dr. Sunil Kumar Sahi, medical superintendent of Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital in Muzaffarpur.
“The cause of the death is not known,” he told Arab News.
“This is matter of research. We follow a medical protocol in treating such patients because all the children are suffering from inflammation of brain or encephalopathy.
“We are telling the people that they should not come out in the heat, and they should eat on time. If there is a fever, they should take a cold bath and take medicine.”
Sanjay Kumar, Bihar government’s principal secretary, said that the disease had affected 222 blocks in 12 districts in central Bihar.
On Sunday, a five-year-old girl died in front of Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan while he was visiting the hospital.
“The situation is really grim in the area adjoining Muzaffarpur. The death toll has reached 127, but government data is still not giving a clear picture,” Raj Kumar, a local reporter, said.
The government has announced it will set up a 100-bed hospital to ease the growing concern in the region.
A team of doctors has been deployed in central Bihar’s main hospitals to handle the growing number of cases.
“A multi-disciplinary institute will be set up here in the next year to identify the reason behind this disease,” the health minister said.