High-level multi-disciplinary team for Bihar to deal with encephalitis menace

New Delhi (India): Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan on Monday said one more high-level multi-disciplinary team has been sent to Bihar for immediately undertaking the necessary groundwork to set up a state-of-the-art multi-disciplinary research centre at Muzaffarpur.

Dr Vardhan on Monday also reviewed the situation arising from the reported cases of acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) at a high-level meeting, which was also attended by senior officers of the Health Ministry, ICMR, and AIIMS. Minister of State for Health Ashwini Kumar Choubey was also present in the meeting.

“To establish the cause of the disease, there is an urgent need for an inter-disciplinary, high-quality research team. The research team shall work with the children suffering from AES looking at various aspects including periodicity, the cycle of disease, environmental factors, and metrological data, besides other factors,” said Dr Vardhan.

The interdisciplinary team consists of experts from ICMR, Delhi, NIMHANS, Bengaluru, National Institute of Malaria Research, National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, National Institute of Epidemiology (NIE), Chennai and AIIMS, New Delhi.

The members of the high level central team are Dr Jhuma Sankar, Associate professor, Department of Pediatrics, AIIMS, New Delhi, Dr V Ravi, senior professor neurovirology, NIMHANS, Dr Abhinav Sinha, Scientist E in National Institute of Malaria Research, Dr Biswaroop, Assistant Professor, Pediatric Neurology, AIIMS, New Delhi, Dr Manoj Murhekar, Director, National Institute of Epidemiology, Chennai, Dr Tandale, Scientist F, NIV, Pune, and Dr Arlappa , Scientist F, National Institute of Nutrition , Hyderabad.

Dr Vardhan also said that five virological labs will be set up in different districts in the State. The location of the district can be decided in consultation with the State government and can be funded through the NHM, he stated.

In one of the decisions taken during his visit to Muzaffarpur, Dr Vardhan has instructed to set up a 100-bedded paediatric ICU at SKMCH by the State government. Also, in the adjoining districts, 10 bedded paediatric ICUs will be set up with the support from the Centre so that such cases can be given better and exclusive treatment and there is no unnecessary load on the facilities available at SKMCH.

Emphasising the need for early detection and treatment of hypoglycemia cases, Dr Vardhan said that a dedicated team of doctors should be placed in endemic PHCs with required facilities at least for three to four months before and during the onset of disease and they may be incentivised under the NHM appropriately.

Dr Vardhan also said that Ministry of Earth Science will be requested to upgrade its IMD observatory facility for improved monitoring of climate-related parameters such as temperature humidity, rainfall, heat waves, etc., and share it with the State government and the NCDC for better preparedness and management of AES.

The toll due to AES at Muzaffarpur rose to 104 on Monday. AES is a viral disease, which causes mild flu-like symptoms such as high fever, convulsions, and headache.