To date, seventy children have died in Muzaffarpur of Bihar; The children showed symptoms of acute encephalitis syndrome. In this article, we shall be discussing why children die eating litchi.
Muzaffarpur kills: are litchi the cause?
In the state Bihar, the government issued a warning asking parents not to give litchees to their children on an empty stomach. The Lancet medical journal said the cause of AES is the lack of food in combination with the toxins present in lychee seeds.
The number of mysterious deaths of children in the district of Muzaffarpur in Bihar has increased to 70. Although the exact cause has not yet been confirmed, health workers suspect that the deaths are related to the toxins present in Leechi (also written as litchi).
Muzaffarpur is the lychee bowl from India. According to the EU Agriculture Ministry, in 2017, the production was 300,000 tons of 32,000 hectares of Bihar . The children showed symptoms of acute encephalitis syndrome (AES), a neurological disorder that involves brain inflammation. AES is “chamki bukhar” (chamki = convulsion).
Symptoms of acute encephalitis syndrome (AES)
The death report was in the Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital and in the Kejriwal Hospital. On Wednesday, the Nitish Kumar government in Bihar issued a warning asking parents not to give litchi to their children on an empty stomach. Furthermore, the health department advised parents to warn children not to eat a lot of mature or immature lychees.
History of this disease
Every year in this period children get sick. Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital and other hospitals in Muzaffarpur have registered almost 180 cases since January. This is also the season in which lychees ripen, tear and they send it to mandis.
According to media reports in 2014, the number of cases reported by AES was 1,028 and in 2015 it was 390. In the following two years, the figures decreased: only one in 2016 and nine in 2017.
The cause of death in children is hypoglycemia: low blood glucose levels. These children come from the poorest sectors of society. Malnutrition is rampant. Children spend the day in lychee orchards eating lychees, sometimes even mature or mature seeds. Children come home at night and sometimes skip dinner. This leads to nocturnal hypoglycemia.
According to the researchers, the cause of the disease was the lack of food (missing food) combined with hypoglycin A and methylene nicotropylglycine toxins (MCPG) in the litchi seeds. The delay in taking the children to the hospital and, therefore, the administration and correction of glucose levels was the cause of death. Extra glucose is stored in the liver and is released when sugar levels are submerged in the blood. However, in the case of Muzaffarpur children due to malnutrition along with the omitted dinner, there is no more glucose in the liver. So instead of the sugar toxins, they secrete, which makes the disease fatal.
However, not all medical professionals are convinced that litchi is the cause of death. According to Dr. Gopal Shankar Sahni, who heads the pediatric ward at the Faculty of Medicine and Sri Krishna Hospital Muzaffarpur, if lychee were behind the deaths, it would have affected children in all regions where litchi is grown and would not limit Muzaffarpur and the surrounding areas. The high humidity combined with high temperatures is the reason for the chakki bukhar, says Dr Sahni. “I can tell with my experience of almost two decades that when the temperature exceeds 38 degrees with 65-85 per cent humidity. It is the best time for the spread of the deadly disease,” said Dr. Sahni in
The Times of India said, However, Muzaffarpur may not be the only region that suffers from this mysterious disease. Lychee cultivation areas in neighbouring Bangladesh and Vietnam have also reported outbreaks of acute encephalitis syndrome in the past.