Public grief gave way to outrage here Tuesday when angry people raised slogans as Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar held a meeting with officials to take stock of the Acute Encephalitis Syndrome outbreak, which has claimed the lives of over 100 children.
The death toll has climbed to 107 with both the Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) hospital and the privately owned Kejriwal hospital reporting one casualty during the night, the district administration said.
On Tuesday morning, Nitish Kumar rushed to the SKMCH hospital in Muzaffarpur, where more than 300 children have been admitted with complaints of AES since June 1.
The chief minister, who was flanked by his deputy Sushil Kumar Modi and cabinet colleague and local MLA Suresh Sharma, went to the ICU inside the hospital to take stock of the situation before holding an impromptu review meeting with hospital authorities and other health department officials.
In the meantime, hordes of people gathered outside the hospital and started shouting slogans like “Nitish Kumar go back”, angry over the chief minister choosing to visit the city only after the number of casualties had crossed the three-digit mark.
Speaking to journalists, they pointed out to a water tanker. “This is today’s development. Things are being spruced up so that it makes a favourable impression on the chief minister. Had the CM visited earlier, it would have made the concerned people pull up their socks and many lives could have been saved,” one of them said.
A team of Union health department officials visited the district over the weekend and clarified that AES was an umbrella of symptoms, unlike Japanese Encephalitis which was a viral infection.
The symptoms include high fever, convulsions and extremely low level of sugar in the blood. Among the factors said to trigger the syndrome are malnutrition.