A case was filed on Monday against Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan and Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey in a court in Muzaffarpur district on charges of negligence leading to the deaths of 82 children due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in the past fortnight.
"A multi-disciplinary institute will be set up here in the next year to identify the reason behind this disease", the health minister said.
According to official data available till late Monday night, 85 children died at the Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital in Muzzaffarpur with a further 18 dying at the Kejriwal Maternity Hospital.
"We are extremely shocked at the situation here". It has now become necessary to set up well-equipped virology labs in five districts to ensure detection and prevention of the disease. He added that there was a need for starting research on AES.
"The cause of the death is not known", he told Arab News.
"Bihar's Health Minister Mangal Pandey seems more anxious about cricket score than the death of children", tweeted Randeep Surjewala of the opposition Congress party.More news: Trump campaign fires multiple pollsters after unflattering numbers leak
What seems to be compounding the problem is acute shortage of doctors, unavailability of key medicines, and lack of nursing staff and beds. "We have even called doctors and nurses from AIIMS in Patna".
One doctor said most patients are already semi-conscious by the time they reach the hospital which is "ill-equipped" to handle so many of them.
Meanwhile, Bihar state Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced ex-gratia compensation of about 400,000 rupees (circa $5,714) to the families of the children that have lost their lives due to the virus in the last few days.
Hindustani Awam Morcha and Jan Adhikar Party Loktantrik supporters showed black flags to Bihar Health Minister, Mangal Pandey's convoy in Aurangabad. But most children who died due to AES were from the poorest of the poor, mainly the Mahadalit community, including Musahar and scheduled castes; malnutrition due to poverty is to blame. Over the next two years the numbers dipped only one was reported in 2016 and nine in 2017.
"The situation is really grim in the area adjoining Muzaffarpur".
Encephalitis is a viral disease, which causes mild flu-like symptoms such as high fever, convulsions and headaches.More news: Raptors favourites hosting Warriors on NBA Finals Game 2 odds
Outbreaks of neurological illness have also been observed in lychee-growing regions of Bangladesh and Vietnam.
In Bihar, Muzaffarpur district has seen the largest number of the death toll.
In other parts of north India, there is fluctuation in temperature and humidity, and the nights are cooler, but in Muzaffarpur humidity increases at night making it worse than the day, especially for children, Shankar was quoted as saying.
The victims of this outbreak have largely been children from poorer households.
The link between lychees and encephalitis may be down to the possibility of the fruit causing hypoglycaemic encephalopathy.More news: Buhari mourns victims of bomb blasts in Konduga