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Almost 100 children have died and at least 150 others affected in India. The children reportedly fell ill after consuming toxic lychee fruit. This fruit is the main source of a mysterious sickness called acute encephalitis syndrome (AES).

The disease has mostly affected children in the Muzaffarpur district in the eastern state of Bihar in India.

What is Encephalitis?

Encephalitis is the inflmmation of the brain and is categorized in two– Japanese Encephalitis Virus (JEV) and Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES). The recent outbreak of this illness is known as "brain fever" and it falls under JEV category.

The inflammation of the brain is caused due to an unusual combination of amino acids in the infected fruit. The acids interrupt glucose production and it leads to hypoglycaemia. As a result, AES infection gets exacerbated with fatal consequences.

  • Symptoms: The symptoms of AES are very similar to that of flu. It includes convulsions, headaches and high fever. Other symptoms of this illness are headache, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, body ache, vomiting, confusion, fever, back pan, weakness, unconsciousness, hearing loss, vision impairment, seizures and paralysis.
  • Cause: In India, the major source of this disease is Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV). Other sources are fungus, bacteria, spirochetes, parasites, toxins, chemicals and non infectious agents. Culex mosquito is the main source of JEV. It spreads the disease by feeding on infected on water birds and pigs. A wide range of bacteria, virus, fungus, spirochetes, parasites, toxins and chemicals cause AES.
  • Prevention: Apart from taking preventive vaccination, a person can protect himself from this disease through washing hands before and after meals, wearing long-sleeved clothes and using mosquito repellents.
  • Treatment: The treatment of JEV and AES includes bed rest, drinking plenty of fluids, having anti-inflammatory drugs and antiviral medications.
  • Impact: Children and young adults are the main victims of this viral disease. Kids below 10 are worst affected and many of the survivors suffer from neurological weaknesses later in life.