Brain fever has afflicted more than 600 children across 16 districts of Bihar of which 136 have lost their lives since the beginning of this month, the state health department said on Thursday.
According to statistics released by the department, the total number of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) cases registered across the state since June 1 was 626, and the total number of deaths caused by the same has mounted to 136.
Muzaffarpur district has bore the maximum brunt, accounting for 117 deaths so far. Besides, deaths have been reported from districts like Bhagalpur, East Champaran, Vaishali, Sitamarhi and Samastipur.
The department also said that among the various complications that are covered under the umbrella term AES, hypoglycemia or very low blood sugar level was the most prevalent as it has afflicted 520 children and accounted for 110 deaths.
Experts have blamed the high incidence of hypoglycemia on a toxin found in unripe litchi fruit, which is believed to be consumed by malnourished children from underprivileged backgrounds.
There have been a few instances of Japanese Encephalitis and herpes, too, which are caused by viral infections, the health department said.
The Centre as well as the state government have taken a grim note of the alarming number of deaths caused this year, the highest since 2014.
Union Health Minister Harshvardhan visited Muzaffarpur on Sunday, two days before Chief Minister Nitish Kumar toured the district and held a meeting with officials to review the situation.
The state health department has deputed additional medical officers, child specialists and nurses from other districts to Muzaffarpur to help the health officials in the district.
Health workers were being provided with packets of oral rehydration solution for free distribution in the affected regions, so that dehydration and electrolyte imbalance could be kept at bay in the event of onset of fever.
The government has also announced that it would reimburse any expenses involved in getting children treated at private hospitals and nursing homes or hiring of ambulances.
Many child specialists, not associated with any government hospital, are holding free camps for the afflicted children.