The Supreme Court voiced its concern over alarming rise in brain fever deaths in Bihar and issued notices to both central and state governments on Monday. Death toll from Acute Encephalitis Syndrome currently stands at 169 in Bihar - with Muzaffarpur, the epicentre of the outbreak, alone accounting for 129 of those. The Supreme Court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation that wants the central government to intervene. The Centre and the state governments both have seven days to respond.
"It cannot go on. This requires some consideration. We will need definite answers," the court said. Bihar Government said the situation was under control after it took “all steps necessary” to prevent the spread of the disease. A Bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and BR Gavai directed the Bihar Government to file an affidavit on medical facilities, nutrition and sanitation and the hygiene conditions in the state.
The court has also asked Uttar Pradesh government to file its response after a lawyer pointed out that such deaths were also reported in the state. The case will be heard after 10 days.
The encephalitis outbreak has caused a panic among state government under Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and health authorities in the state. Doctors not only have their hands full, given that more than 500 people have been afflicted with suspected AES, but they are also puzzling over a disease that largely remains a mystery.
Two hospitals in Muzaffarpur - the state-run Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) and a trust-run Kejriwal Hospital - account for a bulk of the death toll.
AES, known as 'brain fever' is caused by any one of a number of viruses. Symptoms include high fever, vomiting and, in severe cases, seizures, paralysis and coma. Infants and elderly people are particularly vulnerable.