Over 100 children have died in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district due to an outbreak of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES). The matter has now reached the Supreme Court, which will hear a plea seeking directions to the Centre to urgently constitute a team of medical experts for the treatment of children who are suffering from AES.
Everything you need to know about Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (Chamki Fever)
Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain caused most commonly by viral infection, affecting the central nervous system and hampering the neurological functions. There are two types of encephalitis – primary and secondary.
Primary encephalitis occurs when a virus or other agent directly infects the brain while secondary encephalitis results from a weak immune system’s reaction to an infection elsewhere in the body.
It is a serious public health problem in the country, currently engulfing the states of Bihar and Jharkhand.
What are the symptoms of AES or chamki fever?
Mild cases of AES may cause no symptoms. Most mild flu-like symptoms such as headache, fever, aches in muscles or joints and fatigue or weakness
Severe cases of AES or chamki fever can be life threatening and may require immediate medical attention. Some severe symptoms include confusion, agitation or hallucinations, seizures, loss of sensation or paralysis, muscle weakness, speech and hearing difficulties, loss of consciousness.
It most commonly affects children and young adults and can lead to morbidity and mortality. They show symptoms like bulging in the skull, nausea and vomiting, body stiffness, poor feeding, irritability.
Causes of encephalitis or chamki fever
Encephalitis is most commonly caused by viral infection but it is also caused by several other factors such as herpes virus, enteroviruses, mosquito-borne viruses, tick-borne viruses, rabies virus and childhood infections
In India, the most common cause is the virus that causes Japanese encephalitis (JE), Health ministry attributes 5-35% of encephalitis cases to JE virus. It can also be caused by Nipah or Zika virus.
In Bihar, the Directorate of Health Services (DHS) has claimed that the JE virus had caused only two of the encephalitis cases this year.
The exact cause is yet to be identified in the latest Muzaffarpur outbreak. The cause of death in most this year has been attributed to hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar level).
Prevention of AES or chamki fever
To prevent encephalitis, precautions are needed to be taken to avoid contact with viruses that cause it.
- Practice good hygiene: Wash your hands frequently with soap, particularly after using using toilet and before and after having meals.
- Get vaccinations: Take recommended vaccinations for different destinations while travelling and keep your and your children’s vaccinations up to date.
- Protection against mosquitoes: Apply mosquito repellent on your face and body, use insecticide, eliminate standing water and wear long-sleeved clothes at times when mosquitoes are most active.
Treatment of AES or chamki fever
Mild encephalitis can be treated usually by bed rest and penty of fuild intake. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as Tylenol, Advil, and Aleve can also be taken.
Viral encephalitis requires antiviral medications like Zovirax, Cytovene, Foscavir.
However, you should not take any medication without consulting a doctor.
Severe symptoms might not get cured by the above mentioned treatments and might need supportive care in hospitals like breathing assistance, intravenous fluids for hydration, anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce swelling and skull pressure and anti-convulsant medications to stop or prevent seizures.
Those experiencing serious complications might need physical, occupational, speech and psychological therapies to improve strength, develop everyday skills, relearn muscle control and learn new behavioral skills.
Infectious disease doctor, neurologist, paediatrician and emergency medicine doctors can be approached if encephalitis symptoms are noticed.