The encephalitis crisis in Bihar has raised its ugly head again after a gap of two years. Over 130 children are reportedly dead and there is no immediate containment in sight.
Protests erupted today outside Muzaffarpur's Sri Krishna Hospital during chief minister Nitish Kumar's visit. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has also issued a notice to the state's health ministry and has cited massive shortfall in treatment and lack of infrastructure.
Acute encephalitis syndrome, or AES, affects young children generally and is attributed to hypoglycaemia or low blood sugar.
Why is Bihar so vulnerable to AES? The Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta conducted a study and found that AES is caused by a mix of heat, humidity, unhygienic conditions and malnutrition.
CNBC-TV18 spoke to Pradeep Kumar, spokesperson of Indian Medical Association (IMA) and Gopal Shankar Sahni of the deparment of paediatrics at SK Medical College to discuss how the disease can be contained and what can be done to prevent it in the future.
Pradeep Kumar said: "The state government should have an extensive advisory to the public. You should warn the family members and parents to not expose children to high humidity and heat. Secondly, if the children are exposed to heat, they should be given bathing to bring down the temperature.
"Third, they should have adequate nutrition. Fourth, any children who are having symptoms like fever, headache, vomiting, body pain, they should be immediately brought to the hospital."
He added: "In the advanced stage these children develop recurrent seizures or convolutions or fits and then they become comatosed. So the advisory should be very clear at the lower level through the health workers, through the panchayat members etc so that the parents or the guardian of the children should be made aware."
Speaking on the infrastructure to prevent such outbreaks, Kumar said: "IMA has always been emphasizing to all the governments to increase the health budget allocation at least to 5 percent of the GDP but unfortunately we have only 1-1.25 percent of the GDP as of now.
"For healthcare of a mammoth country like India, we should definitely have a higher allocation of budget especially to cater to the needs of the poor and needy of the society. Development of the public healthcare system should be one of the basic infrastructure developments just as we have food, shelter as well as transport facilities."