On Thursday, due to suspected acute encephalitis, five more children in Muzaffarpur, taking the total number to 48. Out of five, four were reported from Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) and one from another major hospital in the district Kejriwal Matri Sadan (KMS).
This year since January, a total of 179 suspected AES cases have been reported by SKMCH and KMS. A 7-member central government team of health experts reached Muzaffarpur to investigate the cause of the deaths, on Wednesday.
The officials of Bihar health department have claimed that most of the deaths were caused by hypoglycaemia - boiling heat, humidity and no rain in the region. In earlier reports, few health experts had associated the deadly brain disease with symptoms of AES to a "toxic substance" found in the lychee grown in abundance in Muzaffarpur and its adjoining areas.
During the summer season, children belonging to poor families in the region usually have lychee by the dozens for want of a proper breakfast. This fruit is believed to persuade a fatal metabolic illness called hypoglycaemic encephalopathy in children.
A chemical found in lychee - Methylene cyclopropyl-glycine (MCPG), affects brain functioning when body sugar levels are low because of fasting or undernourishment. State health officials have recommended parents not to feed their children lychees on an empty stomach and have half-ripe or unripe litchis.
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