Patna: The death toll due to acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) and lack of water facilities has crossed 150 in Bihar. 39 people of Harivanshpur village in Vaishali district were arrested after they protest the government's “failure to tackle the issue”.

The kin of a protester, who was booked, filed an FIR and accused the administration of callousness. Many of those who have been booked are still mourning the loss of their children.  An ANI report cited him saying, "Our children have died. We did a road gherao, but the administration has filed an FIR against us. Men against whom FIRs have been registered have left the village and gone away. They were the only breadwinners."

The Health Department put the total number of AES casualties across 20 districts at 152. These include the 130 deaths reported at the two Muzaffarpur-based hospitals, which have been admitting AES patients from nearly half a dozen districts in its proximity.

It also suspended Bhimsen Kumar, a senior resident doctor posted at the Patna Medical College Hospital, for allegedly failing to comply with the direction to report for emergency duty at the SKMCH.

Experts attribute the deaths to hypoglycemia which typically affects malnourished children below the age of 15 years and is said to be triggered by consumption of unripe lychees -- a fruit grown in abundance in Bihar. The fruit contains a high concentration of a toxin that causes blood-sugar levels to fall sharply.

* With inputs from PTI