Japanese Encephalitis Claims 1,243 Lives

Monday, October 3rd 2005, 11:47 am
By: News On 6

LUCKNOW, India (AP) _ Japanese encephalitis has claimed another 25 lives in India, raising the death toll in South Asia to 1,243 over the last six months, but doctors said new infections were falling as monsoon rains eased and there were fewer puddles for disease-carrying mosquitos to breed in.

About 400 people, mostly children, were being treated for the disease in various hospital across Uttar Pradesh, the worst hit Indian state where at least 907 deaths have been reported in the region's worst outbreak in decades, said Vijay Shankar Nigam, who heads the state's communicable disease department.

Another 65 people have died in eastern Bihar state and 271 in neighboring Nepal, authorities said.

``Twenty-five people died of encephalitis in the past two days, taking the combined death toll in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to 972,'' said Nigam in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh state.

But he said that with the end of the monsoon season, there had been a decline in the number of new cases.

``Twenty-one fresh cases were reported on Saturday night across Uttar Pradesh as compared to up to 100 cases (a day) until recent weeks,'' Nigam said.

Seasonal rains create puddles and pools which allow disease-carrying mosquitos to breed.

``The virus will die as the winter sets in,'' Nigam told The Associated Press.

Doctors say the disease, which causes high fevers that can damage the brain, leaves nearly two thirds of its victims afflicted with permanent mental and physical disabilities.

Meanwhile, doctors have suggested that if the local government cannot afford to vaccinate all children in the state, then it start inoculating pigs which are the source of the disease.

The proposal came as the state government prepared to vaccinate 7 million children under 15 years of age from November at a cost of 2.5 billion rupees ($55.5 million), far exceeding its annual health budget of 1.06 billion rupees ($23.5 million). The 7 million children are in 7 of 70 districts hit by the encephalitis outbreak.

``(Vaccinating pigs) would be less time consuming and a more effective exercise,'' said C.G. Aggarwal, a doctor with the King George's Medical College in Lucknow.

``If carried out properly, encephalitis can be controlled from next year onward in the state,'' he said.