As many as 100 children have died in northern India over the past three weeks from a brain disease that has been linked to toxins in lychees. The children were confirmed dead by health authorities of Bihar due to acute encephalitis syndrome, which involves inflammation of the brain.
In the city of Muzaffarpur, two hospitals registered a total of 179 cases since January said, but the deaths occurred only in the past few weeks. The deaths have occurred in and around the city of Muzaffarpur in the northern state of Bihar, one of the poorest regions in India 97 kids being under age of 7. In 2013, at least 351 people died of encephalitis in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.
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CNN recently reported that the Bihar state health department however, has blamed the deaths on hypoglycemia—low blood sugar—it also suggested that lychee consumption is playing a role. When the body's blood sugar is too low, the liver releases glycogen to compensate.
It is being speculated by experts that lychee has a kind of toxin that goes and deposits in the liver of children, and when the temperatures go up, those toxins get released. The virus can be transmitted in many ways, including by mosquito bites, human contact, bacterial infections, parasites and other toxins. Treatment options include antiviral and anti-inflammatory medication, as well as replenishment of fluids and bed rest.
According to The Washington Post, a recent study by India’s National Center for Disease Control in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States said that there may be another possible cause for the illness. “The area around Muzaffarpur is a major litchi-growing region, and the study found that toxins occurring naturally in the fruit were a plausible source of the illness, especially when children failed to eat an evening meal the day before becoming sick” the report says.
Ministry of Health in India even tweeted on June 16 after Health Minister’s visit, “Union Health Minister @drharshvardhan visited SKMCH, #Muzaffarpur today to review the AES cases, with MOS Sh @AshwiniKChoubey. He spent approx 4 hrs,visiting all six wards where children are admitted. He conferred with the doctors and talked to attendants of the children. pic.twitter.com/cnMOF6Kems” (sic.)
Twenty of the children who have died passed away within just 24 hours, according to the Times of India. AES is a viral or bacterial infection which inflames the brain, impairing function. The onset of the hot summer months typically mark a rise in cases of AES, but this year the toll has been unusually severe and has brought the worth death toll since 2014, according to The Washington Post.
Lychee or no lychee, the system is trying to find the root cause of this to prevent more young children from dying in the areas affected by this disease. It is only natural that lychee might not just remain the most favourite fruit among people here.