August 25, 2005

Encephalitis deaths cross 200 in northern India

LUCKNOW, India (Reuters) - More than two dozen people died
of encephalitis in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh
on Thursday, taking the toll from an outbreak in the region
over 200, health officials said.

Top health officials in India's most populous state
expressed concern the killer virus could spread after initially
being confined to the state's eastern region.

"The virus grows largely between August and October, but
vaccination, which is the only effective preventive method,
cannot be administered after the outbreak of the disease," the
state's director-general of health, O.P. Singh, told Reuters.

Twenty-six people died, most of them in the eastern parts
of the sprawling state, on Thursday to take the toll to 204.

The disease, an acute form of brain fever caused by a virus
spread by mosquitoes, has also spread to other parts of the
state including the provincial capital, Lucknow.

Encephalitis proliferates in water-logged parts of India
during the monsoon season. According to official estimates,
about 1,500 people have died of encephalitis in Uttar Pradesh
in the past 27 years.

India has suffered serious flooding during this year's
monsoon season, which usually runs from June to September.

In Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, and adjacent areas,
210 people have died of diseases such as malaria, leptospirosis
and gastroenteritis after the worst floods in history hit the
region three weeks ago.