Beware of Litchi-Syndrome that Killed 9 Children in Malda, West Bengal: Facts


Picture: Beware of Litchi-Syndrome that Killed 9 Children in Malda, West Bengal
Beware of Litchi-Syndrome that Killed 9 Children in Malda, West Bengal

Story: 

Warning – Read this before eating Litchi

BEWARE – Litchi-Syndrome Killed 9 Children in Malda so Far – Children at Risk

Acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) also popularly known as the Litchi-Syndrome has so far killed 9 children in Malda, the disease is suspected to have caused by a virus spread by a fruit Lichi.

ASE is known to cause sudden death of young kids, however doctors from the West Bengal state Directorate of Medical Education have refused to comment on if litchi eating can cause this disease.

Some doctors have said that children could have gotten infected from the colouring agents and insecticides used on litchi

However, it might help to use precaution while eating Litchi, if you have infant or very young children in the house. Do not let children handle unpeeled litchi, and wash the litchi properly even after peeling, before you hand them to the children.

Picture: Beware of Litchi-Syndrome that Killed 9 Children in Malda, West Bengal
Beware of Litchi-Syndrome that Killed 9 Children in Malda, West Bengal

Analysis:

The health warning message shared in public interest informs about the Litchi-Syndrome (viral infection) that supposedly killed 9 children in Malda district of West Bengal. Yes, it is a fact; the complete information of which is given below.

Picture: Beware of Litchi-Syndrome that Killed 9 Children in Malda, West Bengal
Beware of Litchi-Syndrome that Killed 9 Children in Malda, West Bengal

About the Incident

As reported by IndianExpress.com on 9 June 2014, nine children aged three to five have died in Malda district of West Bengal because of the ‘litchi’ syndrome, a viral infection that shows symptoms of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES), leading to sudden death. Litchi syndrome is named after a famous fruit Litchi, of which Malda is a major producer. Acute encephalitis is a deadly viral disease which may spread through consumption of litchi fruit. It appears to affect only the undernourished children based on cases reported from India and northern Vietnam.

The Litchi-Syndrome has been a seasonal disease for years in UP’s Gorakhpur and Bihar’s Muzaffarpur, and this appears to be the first time it has broken out in West Bengal. As of 15 June 2014, the viral disease has claimed the lives of over 70 children in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district.

Symptoms

The Litchi-Syndrome virus affects the brain causing swelling, while the reported symptoms include high fever, extreme shivering and spells of vomiting, intensifying into convulsions and leading to sudden death within five to six hours.

Scientists Study the Link

The cause of deaths and affected children of litchi syndrome have largely been from around a litchi plantation, say the district officials in Malda. AES is associated with hypoglycemia, which may be triggered by a toxic substance called methylenecyclopropyl—glycine, a homologue of (similar to) hypoglycin A found in litchi fruits. The alarmed scientists are wondering whether the children got infected from the coloring agents and insecticides used on litchi crops. “I am yet to get a detailed report from Malda. But as far as litchi syndrome is concerned, children get infect from the insecticide and coloring agents used by farmers,” said Prof Bibhuti Saha, the head of School of Tropical Medicine STM. However, the connection between the Litchi crop and the disease has not been conclusively established. It has been a subject for in-depth research both in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur and West Bengal’s Malda districts.

About Litchi

Litchi or Lychee (shahi litchi) is a famous tropical and subtropical fruit known for its unique flavor and taste. The fear of Litchi Virus has affected its sales largely. KP Thakur, managing director of Litchica International talks about it saying, “We have witnessed nearly 40 percent decline in sale of litchis in the last three days after it was reported that AES has some connection with this sweet and juicy summer fruit.”

Caution

Until the definite reason behind the Litchi-Syndrome virus (or the AES) is known, as a preventive measure, it is a good idea to avoid consuming the fruit, especially the children. The mentioned advice to peel off the skin and wash the fruit before eating is NOT safe at this point of time.

Hoax or Fact:

Fact with some misinformation.

References:

Litchi sales, export hit by encephalitis syndrome
Lychee: Acute encephalitis


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Beware of Litchi-Syndrome that Killed 9 Children in Malda, West Bengal: Facts