The disease shows up as vomiting and severe headaches. Lychee is a fruit that inhibits the production of glucose. Some doctors believe the main cause is dehydration.
New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – In June more than a hundred children died from acute encephalitis in the State of Bihar.
Local authorities have been trying to identify the cause of the worst outbreak affecting children in recent years. So far, the heat wave, malnutrition and toxins in lychee have been blamed.
Bihar, in north-eastern India, is one of the poorest states in the country. The most affected area is the district of Muzaffarpur, where more than 200 children have fallen seriously ill and had to be hospitalised.
“The situation is very difficult. We don't know how to deal with it,” said Archbishop William D’Souza of Patna.
According to Fr Jose Kariakatt, an activist, the number of cases could be much higher than the official toll. The situation, he notes, is made more complicated by “the lack of drugs and the shortage of doctors, nurses and paramedics".
The outbreak began in an unpredictable manner. Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) shows up as a severe headache with vomiting and can lead to coma, brain dysfunction, seizures and inflammation of the heart and kidneys.
Children aged six months to 15 years are the most vulnerable because their immune system is not fully developed. One fifth of those who contract the disease have to live the rest of their life with neurological weaknesses.
Indian media talk about "lychee killer". The fruit contain toxins that inhibit the body's ability to produce glucose, which can affect children when their blood sugar levels are already low from malnutrition, this in a state, Bihar, that has 100 million poor people.
Many of the victims said that they ate lychees before feeling ill; however, some doctors call for caution and are more inclined to blame brain infections on the lack of water, humidity and the sudden temperature difference between day and night.