Encephalitis death toll reaches 267 in India

Japanese encephalitis has killed 14 more people in northern India, taking the death toll from the mosquito-borne disease to 267, officials said on Tuesday.

The new deaths were reported since Monday in Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state and one of its poorest. Hundreds of people have flocked to hospitals this month with symptoms of the disease, that has been spread by mosquitos breeding in dirty water puddles left by annual monsoon rains.

Most of the dead are children under age 15, but three adults have also died, said state Health Minister Jaiveer Singh.

He said more than 50 adults have been hospitalised with symptoms of encephalitis, which causes high fevers and vomiting and ultimately can leave patients comatose.

It can be prevented by vaccinations, but state health authorities say they don’t have enough money for a statewide immunisation programme.

The outbreak was first reported around the eastern city of Gorakhpur but has spread to 24 of Uttar Pradesh’s 70 districts.

More than 1 100 patients are being treated in government hospitals, said OP.Singh, the state’s director-general for health.

Most of Uttar Pradesh’s public health facilities are out of reach for the overwhelming poor population in this state of 180-million people.

Meanwhile, Japanese encephalitis has killed at least 97 people in neighbouring Nepal since April, government health officials said on Tuesday.

The majority of victims were children who died in southern Nepal close to the border with India, according to the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division.

Medical teams have been sent to the area to deal with the disease. – Sapa-AP

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