10/08/2013, 00.00
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Uttar Pradesh, new encephalitis epidemic: over 350 people die

Most are children. In Gorakhpur hospitals more than 200 patients already affected by the virus, of unknown cause. The most common symptoms are headaches, vomiting and coma, which often degenerate into brain dysfunction, epilepsy, and heart and liver inflammation.

New Delhi (AsiaNews / Agencies ) - At least 358 people have died in Uttar Pradesh since the beginning of the year, in an outbreak of viral encephalitis of unknown origin. Most of the victims are children, in the last few days 15 children have died from contagion. At the moment the government hospitals of Gorakhpur - the city most affected - have treated over 200 patients suffering from encephalitis, but the rains which continue to affect the Indian state could increase deaths . In fact, the disease occurs mainly during the monsoon season.

Gorakhpur doctors say that the patients come from 12 districts in the state and belong mostly to very poor rural communities . Until 2005, most of the victims died from Japanese encephalitis virus which is transmitted by mosquitoes. In the past seven years, however, many children have died from a new form of viral encephalitis . The most common symptoms are headaches and vomiting, the disease can lead to coma, cause brain dysfunction, epilepsy and inflammation of the heart and liver.

Since 1978, when Uttar Pradesh recorded the first case, at least 6,500 children have died . In 2005, a violent outbreak of Japanese encephalitis killed 1000 people. The group most at-risk is children between six months and 15 years. A fifth of children who survive suffer a lifetime of neurological problems.

Last week, the Central Government of India launched a vaccination campaign against Japanese encephalitis, as part of a national program to combat the virus .



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