Medicines worth Rs 10 and a cooling room could have saved the lives of 200 children in Muzaffarpur

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Kolkata: A fact-finding from Kolkata who visited Muzaffarpur come to conclusion that neither it was a virus outbreak nor the litchi syndrome that caused the death of over 200 children. They also maintained that a simple 10 % dextrose solution, a sachet of electrolyte (value around Rs 10) and a cooling room could have easily saved the innocent lives.

The team of Medical Service Centre (MSC) — Central Committee, Kolkata comprising four doctors was in Muzaffarpur, Bihar for two days in the first week of July. The main intention of this group was to study the reason behind the sudden outbreak of encephalitis which caused the death of 110 kids in Bihar.

“Our team surveyed and conducted camps in 7 villages located in three of the most severely affected blocks of Muzaffarpur. Based on the information and facts gathered by our team, we have come to the conclusion that deaths were 100 percent preventable. The illness could have been treated if the minimal medical infrastructure was present there.”

On being asked to explain, he said, “There is only one medical healthcare centre in the entire district – Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH). Sadly enough, it was not equipped enough to take care of the huge number of cases that were pouring in. With less number of doctors and an increasing number of cases, the medical system not in places increased the number of deaths. They didn’t even have drip set and glucometer in place. And despite the huge public outrage, the government did little to make the necessary types of equipment available in surplus quantity despite the Health Minister visiting the hospital.”

Muzaffarpur children doctor litchi
Fact-finding team doctors meet with children in Muzaffarpur

Elaborating of the fact-finding report, he said, “There are three primary deductions made on the basis of facts gathered by our team. Kids mostly from poor families died during this outbreak. Most of these kids were malnourished and their parents insisted that they hadn’t had litchis for days and had still died. And last and the most important fact – they never died of viral infection or encephalitis. This had been confirmed by the Pune Institute of Virology that no viral infection had been detected in the spinal fluid that they had received as samples.”

On being asked then what was the reason for the death, he said, “Poverty, poor sanitation, poor hygiene and poor medical infrastructure are the main reason for the huge number of death tolls. Scientifically, all these reasons combined with the hot and humid climate of Muzaffarpur led to mitochondrial damage of the malnourished kids, which eventually led to multi-organ failure.”

The team maintained that parents with a daily earning of Rs60- Rs150 were unable to afford the ambulance or transport money to take the kids to the SKMCH. “The primary healthcare system is in shambles in Bihar. The government had been in denial first but now being forced to accept. It’s high time that the Prime Minister, Health Minister and Bihar’s Chief Minister probe into the recurring Muzaffarpur deaths. They need to provide the basic infrastructure to the rural doctors,” said Dr Chandra.

Explaining how badly the poor parents are treated Dr Chiranjeet Roy, one of the team members shared, “Sadly enough the parents who lost their kids are yet to get the death certificates indicating the reason for the death of the child. All that they have got is a challan receipt stating that the child had died.”

Dr Kafeel Khan, who is in Kolkata and had also organised health camps in Muzaffarpur, when questioned about the same, stated,  “Only the kids from poor families died during this outbreak and all these children could have been saved. We as doctors have to face the public outrage when the government is to be blamed for not giving the doctors the basic infrastructure.” He then added, “If this type of incident had taken place in West Bengal, then public outrage and social media campaigning would have been far more critical and demanding.”

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