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More Than 50 Children Die In Bihar Due To Encephalitis Caused By Eating Lychee

In a shocking incident, more than 50 children have died in Bihar's Muzaffarpur district after they developed brain infections which were caused by a toxic substance in the lychee fruit. 


According to officials, 31 children have died of Encephalitis in the past 10 days alone. 
AFP quoting senior health official Ashok Kumar Singh reported that the children had shown symptoms of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) and most had suffered a sudden loss of glucose in their blood.
"The health department has already issued an advisory for people to take care of their children during the hot summer when day temperature is above 40 degree Celsius," Singh told AFP. 
At least 40 other children complaining of similar symptoms were being treated at intensive care units.
"We are trying our best to save them," said SP Singh, the chief medical officer of Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital.
According to the WHO Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain and viral infection is the most common cause. It can be life-threatening if it is not detected in time and prompt treatment administered. 
This is not the first time such deaths have been reported from Muzaffarpur which is known for its lush lychee orchards. In fact, Encephalitis deaths during the season have been happening in Muzaffarpur for years now. 
The connection between the two emerged only in 2017 in a joint study by scientists from the US and India. 
They had observed that in the Lychee season children in the area often used to spend their day in orchards eating the fruit and even skipping evening meals in the process. 
According to the study published in Lancet Global Health, the Hypoglycin A and Methylene cyclopropyl acetic acid which are naturally present in litchi fruit caused a reduction of low blood sugar levels during the night.
The deaths remained a mystery for years as the lab tests of blood and spinal fluid samples of the victims showed no signs of infection or exposure to chemicals and insecticides.
But during the study, the scientists noticed that all the children had either eaten Lychee hours before they became unwell or had visited the orchard in the previous 24 hours. 


Scientists from Delhi’s National Centre for Disease Control, India (NCDC) and the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had begun the study in 2013 following reports child deaths but were not able to find the cause. But the death of more than 100 children aged below 15 years gave the scientists more insights and behavioral patterns of the victims. 
Following the publication of the study children in the area were made aware of the dangers of excessive consumption of the fruit and encouraged them to eat an evening meal to keep their blood sugar levels normal. 
But another outbreak of Encephalitis during another lychee season suggests that more work need to be done to create awareness among both children and grown-ups. 



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