Encephalitis toll hits 1 058 in north India

The official death toll from Japanese encephalitis in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh reached 1 058 on Monday after 12 more children died from the mosquito-borne disease, officials said.

The worst outbreak of the fatal illness in nearly two decades had been expected to peter out with the onset of winter, but about 350 people are still in state-run hospitals.

“Though the influx of patients has dropped, it has not stopped.

Still parents are bringing their sick children to hospitals,” said Lalit Saxena of the BRD Medical College hospital where 163 encephalitis patients are being treated.

Health officials had hoped that with monsoon rains over mosquito breeding grounds would dry up. “This is not happening. It has not rained for last many days, still we have patients,” he said.

Nearly all the dead were children.

At Lucknow’s King George Medical College hospital, 24 children between the ages of two and 12 are still clinging to life.

Most of the deaths have been reported since July from Gorakhpur district in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state with 180-million people and one of its poorest.

In neighbouring Nepal, the death toll has crossed 250 while another 1 510 were treated for the disease, which causes headaches, seizures and high fever.

Japanese encephalitis first surfaced in Uttar Pradesh in 1978, killing 721 people, and has become endemic.
Deaths hit a record 1 228 in 1988. Over 4 000 people have died in the state since the disease first hit. - Sapa-AFP

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