Muzzaffarpur: Anganwadi and Asha workers, who should have conducted awareness drive and monitored food intake of children, were on poll duty - Aanchal Bansal

-The Economic Times

According to Dr Arun Shah of the IAP, the Nitish Kumar govt failed to implement the guidelines drafted in 2015 to prevent a similar outbreak.

While litchi is mostly being blamed for the outbreak of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district that has claimed lives of more than 100 children, experts maintain that malnutrition and the recently-held Lok Sabha elections are actual culprits.

According to Muzaffarpur-based Dr Arun Shah of the Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP), the Nitish Kumar government failed to implement the guidelines drafted in 2015 to prevent a similar outbreak.

“The guidelines require anganwadi and ASHA workers to conduct awareness drives in April and June and monitor the food intake of children. That did not happen this year because they were all on election duty,” Shah said.

Shah was one of the main contributors to a report published in the Lancet Global Health journal in 2017, based on a study carried out by the National Centre for Disease Control in India and the US’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that pointed to the link between litchi consumption and malnutrition in AES cases for the first time. The NCDC, CDC and IAP are part of the high-level committee formed by Union health minister Harsh Vardhan to deal with the crisis.

“Our study found that children in the affected villages ate litchis during the day and often did not have dinner because they came from very poor families that may have lacked the means for full meals. The toxin known as hypoglycin A, which is naturally present in litchis, reduces blood sugar levels in night causing hypoglycemia. Typically, the children fell ill the next morning after eating the fruit, with serious symptoms such as high fever, brain function derangement and seizures,” Shah said, adding many urine samples studied for the study revealed the presence of the toxin.

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The Economic Times, 21 June, 2019,

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