NHRC Notice to Centre, Bihar on Child Deaths by Encephalitis Virus

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Children with encephalitis symptoms being treated at hospital in Muzaffarpur, Bihar on June 12, 2019. — IANS

PATNA (IANS) — The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Monday issued a notice to the Bihar government and the Union Health Ministry calling for a detailed report on the growing number child deaths caused by the encephalitis virus in the state’s Muzaffarpur district.

The NHRC has taken suo motu cognizance of media reports about the rising number of deaths of children due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in Muzaffarpur since the past few days.

The human rights body said that the Bihar encephalitis death toll had reportedly gone up by Monday to 100.

It is also reported that, apart from Muzaffarpur, some other districts of the state have also been affected.

The Commission has sought a detailed report in the matter, including the status of implementation of the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Japanese Encephalitis Virus/ Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (NPPCJA) and other steps taken to deal with the current grim situation.

The Commission also wanted to know about the status of the treatment being provided to the currently hospitalised children and the relief provided by the state to the aggrieved families.

The response to the notice is expected within four weeks.

The Commission has observed that in spite of reported measures taken by the government agencies, deaths of children in such a large number point to possible flaws in the implementation of the vaccination and awareness programmes.

Not only vaccination but all precautionary measures, such as cleanliness and hygiene, among others, are also required to be taken sincerely to ensure that children do not fall prey to the fatal disease, the Commission observed.

It said this was a case of violation of human rights of the child victims and their families, as the state appeared to have failed to protect young innocent lives.

Expressing serious concern over the spread of the fatal viral infection, NHRC further observed that encephalitis has claimed the lives of a large number of children in India. Sometime back, Gorakhpur district of Uttar Pradesh suffered a lot due to Japanese Encephalitis when about 60 children lost their lives.

The Commission was informed that the Union government has initiated the NPPCJA in this regard.

According to the media reports, while 76 children have died at the state-run Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) in Muzaffarpur, 17 deaths have been recorded at the Kejriwal Matrisadan since January this year. As per reports, currently, 115 patients are being treated at the two hospitals.

The reports also said that the state Health Minister had sent a team of doctors and adequate number of paramedical staff from Patna to Muzaffarpur. Union Health Minister visited Harsh Vardhan visited the SKMCH on Sunday.


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