In the light of the massive outbreak of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in Bihar, Union Health Ministry has called for constituting a permanent multi-disciplinary group of experts at the Centre to review and tackle the situation.

The group shall draw experts from the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), World Health Organisation (WHO), Centre for Disease Control (CDC), Indian Association of Paediatrics (IAP), Ministry of Science & Technology, Ministry of Women and Child Development and also include experts in the field of meteorology, nutrition, agricultural science.

The group constituted at the national level will be anchored in the Health Ministry, according to an official release.

“The group should meet regularly during the year to monitor the recommendations of the two central expert teams that are presently stationed in Muzaffarpur and deliberate upon their findings and also any suggestions received from other experts in the matter”, said the release quoting Union Health Minister Harshvardhan.

“This group shall formulate recommendations for measures to be taken up in case of an outbreak and for immediate control, in addition to a long-term understanding about its causes so as to prevent the cases,” he added.

High child mortality

The multi-disciplinary group on Tuesday, discussed and deliberated on the factors causing high child mortality in the reported AES/Japanese Encephalitis (JE) cases in Muzaffarpur district of Bihar, and further immediate measures to be taken up to prevent child mortality.

The group discussed the socio-economic profile of the households which have reported cases, their nutrition profiles, issues such as the ongoing heat wave, reported high percentage of hypoglycemia in the children who died, the prevailing health infrastructure in the district and other factors that could significantly be considered in these cases.

Measures to further strengthen the health infrastructure, need for an aggressive awareness campaign in the preceding months when these cases are reported in higher number in order to prevent these cases, need for strengthening the research base to provide sound knowledge on the causes of mortality, active collaboration between the State and Central governments with experts and researchers, were some of the issues taken up for detailed deliberation at the meeting.

Over a hundred children have died and more are undergoing treatment for AES in Bihar’s Muzzafarpur.