Two more children died in Bihar's Muzaffarpur district on Sunday due to acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) even as officials asserted that afflictions and casualties had begun to dwindle with the onset of rains.
Both the deaths took place at the S K Medical College and Hospital, where 431 children, including two in the past 12 hours, have been admitted for AES treatment since June 1, according to figures released by the district administration. The total number of AES patients who have died at the SKMCH is 110.
"There is a perceptible decline in the number of children who are being admitted with brain fever as also the number of deaths," hospital superintendent Sunil Kumar Shahi said. "It has always been observed that AES strikes at the peak of summer and the outbreak halts with the onset of rains."
Two fresh cases have been registered, one on Saturday and another on Sunday, Shahi said.
Besides the SKMCH, the Kejriwal hospital in the Muzaffarpur town has so far registered 162 AES cases and 20 casualties.
The Health Department put the total number of AES casualties across 20 districts at 152. These include the 130 deaths reported at the two Muzaffarpur-based hospitals, which have been admitting AES patients from nearly half a dozen districts in its proximity.
It also suspended Bhimsen Kumar, a senior resident doctor posted at the Patna Medical College Hospital, for allegedly failing to comply with the direction to report for emergency duty at the SKMCH.
Meanwhile, a huge chunk of plaster fell off the ceiling at the SKMCH in the afternoon and came crashing down on the ground, barely a few feet away from a patients' ward.
Nobody was injured in the incident, which took place a day after human skeletal remains were found strewn near a garbage dump close to the hospital building.
Experts attribute the deaths to hypoglycemia which typically affects malnourished children below the age of 15 years and said to be triggered by consumption of unripe lychees -- a fruit grown in abundance in Bihar. The fruit contains a high concentration of a toxin that causes blood-sugar levels to fall sharply.