Muzaffarpur, a city in Bihar has been in the buzz for at least three weeks, but not for the right reasons. More than 100 children have died at the hands of what doctors suspect as Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) or “Chamki Bukhar”. The outbreak that started in early June has seen more than 200 patients, most who are under the age of 10 flock to two hospitals, Muzaffarpur Hospital and Sri Krishna Medical College Hospital (SKMCH).
Simply put, anything in excess can be detrimental to both our mental and physical health. But, perhaps, eating a litchi won’t immediately kill you. What we must understand is what eating litchis can do to our bodies.
These days, our news feeds are flooded with news of children dying in Bihar after consuming litchis. However, what we didn’t understand was how those litchis may have lead to the deaths of those innocent lives. In an article published by BBC, it states that for nearly two decades, every summer, otherwise healthy children from the state of Bihar would suffer from sudden seizures and lose consciousness, leaving the doctors confused and grasping at straws. A new research published by The Lancet, A medical Journal, hints that the children were poisoned by litchis.
Also read: Diarrhea in Children: Causes & Symptoms
How then can litchis, a fruit that is full of benefits be the cause of dozens and dozens of children dying? Most of the children who died seemed to have belonged to families who were below the poverty line. This meant that children were perhaps only getting one square meal a day, perhaps, on a good day, two meals.
These children consumed huge quantities of litchis on an empty stomach which could have possibly led to their deaths. That outbreak was caused by the ackee fruit, which contained hypoglycin, a toxin that prevents the body from making glucose. Litchis contains toxins which slow down the body’s ability to produce glucose. This is what affected the children, their blood sugars were already low as they were not eating dinner. As they woke up in the middle of the night screaming, their bodies suffering from convulsions, their brains had abnormally swollen up.
Encephalitis is a swelling of the brain or an inflammation of the brain tissue. It is most commonly caused by viral infections, or due to the body’s own immune system attacking the brain tissue by mistake and can also be caused by bacteria and fungi. As the body tries to fight off the virus, the brain becomes inflamed. Encephalitis is a life-threatening disease, so it must be treated immediately. There are two primary types of encephalitis:
In this type of encephalitis, the virus infects the brain and the spinal cord directly.
The virus infects a certain part of the body and then makes its way to the brain.
Also Read: 5 Reasons Why Babies Fall Sick Frequently
There is a wide range of symptoms of encephalitis but the most common ones include:
Less common symptoms include stiffness in the neck, slow movements and painful limbs.
There are three main reasons for Chamki Fever or Encephalitis Fever:
Herpes simplex is one of the most common viruses that causes encephalitis. The herpes virus reached the skin by travelling through a nerve and then causes a cold sore (especially around the mouth). This in turn, can travel to the brain if not treated in time. Other viruses that may cause encephalitis are mumps and HIV etc.
As most children are already vaccinated these days, childhood viruses have a rare chance of causing encephalitis. However, viruses like chicken pox, measles and rubella can’t be ruled out.
Arboviruses are those that are spread by insects, mosquitoes, ticks etc. The type of virus transmitted by the insect depends on the insect. Arboviruses include Japanese encephalitis, West Nile encephalitis, tick-borne encephalitis, Eastern equine encephalitis etc.
To treat herpes encephalitis, antiviral medication is prescribed. However, these very medicines may not be effective in treating other forms of encephalitis. For these, doctors generally prescribe:
If you or someone in your family is exhibiting symptoms of encephalitis, please visit the nearest hospital as soon as possible.
There isn’t a foolproof way of preventing encephalitis but we can always take protective steps. Make sure your children are vaccinated on time. When going outdoors or in areas where there might be many ticks, mosquitoes etc, always use a repellant and wear clothes that cover your body properly. Do not eat dirty fruits and vegetables.
Want to share your experience as a mom with other moms through words or images? Become a part of the Moms United community. Click here and we will get in touch with you