Are Kids in Bihar dying because of rising temperature?
If we study the temperature trends in Muzaffarpur over the past 10 years, it is apparent that the number of deaths has a direct correlation with the maximum temperature crossing 40 degrees in Muzaffarpur in the month of May and June
Could the number of children dying due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in Muzaffarpur, Bihar be linked to rising temperature?
If data is to be believed, then yes.
If we study the temperature trends in Muzaffarpur over the past 10 years, it is apparent that the number of deaths has a direct correlation with the maximum temperature crossing 40 degrees in the district in the month of May and June.
This data is available on World Weather Online -- a platform that monitors weather trends across the globe.
At least 130 children have died in Bihar so far and many more are admitted in different private and government hospitals.
While the exact cause of this fever is not known, doctors are calling it Acute Encephalitis Syndrome as the symptoms are similar to Encephalitis.
It should rain now …
While some experts are blaming it on rising temperature, Sunil Shahi, medical superintendent at Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital, said a spell of rain would end the miseries of Muzaffarpur.
"This has been happening since 1995. This disease disappears when it starts raining. If it rains today, we won't have more cases of AES," he said.
In the year 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2019, many AES-related deaths were reported in Muzaffarpur. The maximum temperature recorded in the month of May and June in these years was more than 40 degrees.
The year 2012 was bad. The temperature recorded in the month of May was 40 degrees and in June it was 41 degrees. As a result of this, 275 children succumbed to AES.
However, the year 2014 was the worst. The maximum temperature that was recorded in May and June was 41 degrees. The temperature didn't fall in June because of which 355 children lost their lives.
In 2019, the maximum temperature recorded in the month of May was 43 degrees, which was the highest in the past 10 years.
"It's been 25 years that children are dying due to this disease. The victims are children coming from poor families who live in villages. Those who are not malnourished, they don't suffer from this disease," said Dr Arun Kumar Shah. He wrote an article on this disease, which was published in Current Science, a scientific journal.
Main causes are poverty and malnutrition
"Our research shows that the main causes are poverty and uncleanliness. Another triggering factor is when malnourished children eat unripened litchi on empty stomach," he added.
The deadly combination of temperature, malnutrition and toxic elements lead to children suffering from Hypoglycaemia and that's how the suffer from AES, he explained. To add to this, the 2019 temperature hovered around 43 degrees in May. All these factors triggered what followed.
As per the data on World Weather Online, after 2014, the maximum temperature in May and June didn't cross 40 degrees simultaneously. If the temperature was less in May, it went up in June. And vice versa. The average temperature also remained low.
"Children who have died due to this disease come from poor families. They are all malnourished. The need of the hours is to work in these areas and deal with issues like malnutrition and contaminated water. It's not right to link this disease to litchi," said Rafa Ejaz Hussain, Bihar head of Save the Children. This organisation works in the field of children and health.
Talking about rising temperature, he said: "Many districts in Bihar have recoded temperatures higher than this. But the districts that are seeing these deaths, they are economically backward. There is a need to work on medical facilities and Public Distribution System."
It's just unfortunate that a two degree increase in temperature is leading to thousands of children dying because they are malnourished.
Dr Shahi from Sri Krishna Medical College too feels that parents should protect their children from sun, they should bathe them regularly and give them nutritious food to shield them from this deadly disease.