Are litchis the real culprit for the deaths of children?

Encephalitis is the inflammation of brain which may sometimes also involves the spinal cord. This is mainly caused by Japanese encephalitis virus and Influenza virus. This is mostly seen in children and elderly.

It starts with the fever and headache. Then the neurological symptoms appear such as convulsions, difficult speech, vomiting. It is accompanied with poor appetite and general weakness.

Condition In India

Generally acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) is a rare condition but this summer AES got outbreak in Bihar’s muzzaffarpur, India known as “chamki bhukar”. This happened annually during summer months since 1995, typically coinciding with the litchi season.

Number of deaths are increasing day by day. The state health department has blamed hypoglycemia — low blood sugar — for the children’s deaths but said that lychee fruit, which is widely grown in the region, may also plays a role.

Are litchis the real culprit for the deaths of children?

The cause of death is hypoglycemia which gets severe in high temperature( more than 40 degree Celsius). Children eat the litchis in orchard the whole day and skip dinner at night, which in turn tend to cause low blood sugar at night.

Some researchers said lack of food combined with toxins hypoglycin A and methylenecyclopropylglycine (MCPG) present in lychee seeds was the cause of the illness.

The body normally releases extra glucose stored in the liver, when the body experiences hypoglycemia. However, in these cases, as most of the children were suffering from malnutrition, there was no glucose stored in the liver. When the body signalled the liver to release sugar when the blood sugar dipped, it instead released toxins which made the disease fatal.

Bihar issued an advisory asking parents not to give their children litchis on an empty stomach as it can cause hypoglycemia.

Prevention and Treatment for AES
  • Do not skip the meal, maintain the blood sugar level.
  • Limit kids contact with soil, leaves, and vegetation.
  • For treatment, anti viral and Corticosteroids may be used to reduce brain swelling.
  • Antibiotics don’t work against viruses, so aren’t used to treat most forms of encephalitis.


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