India encephalitis toll rises
June 21, 2019 -- An epidemic of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) -- a brain inflammation -- has afflicted more than 600 children and killed at least 150 across the Indian state of Bihar since the beginning of June.
Bihar state is one of India’s most impoverished and home to almost 100 million people, is also struggling with a significant heat wave that is the country’s second-longest on record and has so far claimed 78 lives.
AES, which is known locally as Chamki Bukhar, claimed a record 150 lives in 2014.
Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district has borne the brunt of the AES casualties, accounting for 129 deaths. The victims come from poor families who often suffer from malnutrition and dehydration.
Experts have blamed the deaths on hypoglycin A -- a toxin found in unripe lychees. When eaten by malnourished children, hypoglycin A causes hypoglycaemia, which rapidly decreases blood sugar levels.
Symptoms include confusion or disorientation, seizures, weakness or loss of movement in some parts of the body, and loss of consciousness leading to death.