Nearly 400 dead in encephalitis outbreak in India
At least 390 people, mostly children, have died in an outbreak of encephalitis in India's northern state of Uttar Pradesh, officials said Thursday, dpa reported.
Health authorities said 2,511 patients were admitted to government hospitals in and around the eastern district of Gorakhpur, the epicentre of the outbreak.
The initial cases were reported in January but the outbreak began when the monsoon season started in June, doctors said.
"A total of 390 people, mostly children, have died due to the virus, and over 200 are still admitted in various hospitals," state health services additional director Diwakar Prasad said by phone.
Encephalitis is a brain inflammation, generally caused by a viral infection. The risk of the disease increases during and after the rainy season, which last roughly from June to October.
KP Kushwaha - head of the Baba Raghav Das Hospital in Gorakhpur, which has recorded 340 such deaths - said that until 2005, a majority of the deaths were caused by Japanese encephalitis, a mosquito-borne disease.
But over recent years, more deaths have been due to other forms of viral encephalitis, including enteroviral encephalitis, which is water-borne.
The worst outbreak of the disease was recorded in 2005. It claimed more than 1,000 lives. Extensive immunizations were carried out in and around Gorakhpur that year.
"The region is socially and economically backward with poor standards of hygiene, sanitation and potable water is very difficult to get," a doctor at the hospital said.
"The outbreak is not purely a medical problem," the doctor said. "It's more of a social and economic issue."