The Supreme Court on Monday sought a response from the Centre and the Bihar and Uttar Pradesh governments on a public interest litigation seeking urgent steps to control the outbreak of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome, PTI reported. Over 150 people, majority children, have died of encephalitis in Muzaffarpur district of Bihar alone over the last month.

A bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Deepak Gupta issued notices to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, chief secretaries and secretaries of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, on the plea which also sought prompt and free treatment for all children. Lawyer Shiv Kumar Tripathi, who filed the plea, also sought direction to the Centre and state governments to create necessary infrastructure for treatment.

“Due to complete negligent act of the respondents, more than hundreds of children has lost their lives and is still continuing since numbers of deaths are increasing day by day due to AES in north Bihar’s Muzaffarpur District,” the petition read. “Due to its high epidemic potential, high case-fatality, it is taking thousand lives annually. The epicentre of said disease in India is eastern parts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The said disease is completely curable and lives of young children are being lost due to the inaction of the state machinery which has failed to take any steps to prevent the said outbreak.”

The plea demanded that the respondents be ordered to carry out public awareness campaigns about the disease. It also said that a committee of medical experts should be formed to find out the reasons for the outbreak of the epidemic and the loss of lives of more than 100 children. Responsibility should be fixed for these deaths, it added. The plea also said that skilled doctors and paramedical staff should be immediately sent to the affected areas.

On July 4, the Bihar government had told the Supreme Court that its health infrastructure was inadequate to deal with such an outbreak.