Lychee fruit in India might be the cause for so many children's deaths.
A mysterious illness has sprung in India and people are desperately searching for answers. Children are going to sleep in relatively perfect health and then they are waking up extremely sick. Children are going to sleep with no symptoms and they have been waking up with extreme fevers and suffering from seizures. Researchers are trying to find the cause of the epidemic. Over 100 children have died just this month all exhibiting the same symptoms.
The children are passing away from an illness that impairs the functioning of the brain and sends the level of glucose in the blood plummeting. The deaths have occurred in and around the city of Muzaffarpur in the northern state of Bihar, one of the poorest regions in India. The deaths start in the summertime and in the most recent years there have only been about 20 reported deaths with this illness. However, so far, they have already experienced over 100 deaths. They are trying to find answers! This year has been the worst year since 2014 and the majority of deaths have been from children younger than 7 years old.
The doctors have not been able to figure out what has caused these deaths, but they have called the illness Acute Encephalitis Syndrome, or AES. AES is characterized by the rapid onset of a fever combined with disorientation and seizures. For a while, researchers have thought that the illness was spread through direct contact and by mosquitoes. They weren't sure if that was the cause, but "it just made sense." However, the more they have researched this mysterious illness, they have found that it could possibly be linked to their lychee (or litchi) harvest.
Experts are saying that children who are ending up in the hospital are eating a massive amount of the lychee fruit and then missing a meal. Most of all of the children affected by AES do not have good nutrition and are from poor families. It is also difficult because hospitals in these poor areas have limited resources and do not have the ability to help all of the children who are struggling with such devastating symptoms. In 2017, the hospital in Gorakhpur lost 30 children in just two days when their oxygen ran out.
The fruit appears to affect the children's glucose levels and is causing a direct cause to AES. However, officials do not know how to help with this situation. Children in these areas do not have a lot of access to food. They are able to have a lot of access to the Lychee fruit during the harvesting season (which is in the Summertime) which is probably why AES is always on the rise during the summer time. When Indian Health Minister Harsh Vardhan visited the area on Sunday, he was trailed by angry and grieving relatives. Vardhan said that the national government would provide “all possible help” to local authorities, according to media reports. Earlier, he had expressed confidence that the government would “soon be able to contain the rise” in AES cases.