- LUCKNOW, India -- Health
experts have begun investigating a mysterious virus that has killed nearly
100 children and sickened hundreds of other people over the last two months
in the northern Uttar Pradesh state, officials said Saturday.
- The children, mostly under 12 years of age, died after
what doctors and officials described as a high fever brought on by mosquito
bites. Doctors said children and older people were more susceptible to
the disease as their immune systems were weaker.
- Two teams of doctors and public health specialists from
the federal and state governments have started studying the outbreak in
Saharanpur, the worst hit district, said Navtej Singh, a district official.
- But authorities were divided over what the virus was.
Some patients have shown symptoms similar to those of Japanese encephalitis,
while others have not.
- Japanese encephalitis is spread from pigs to humans through
mosquito bites. It attacks the central nervous system, causing flu-like
symptoms, vomiting, paralysis and sometimes death.
- "This time it is not encephalitis," said Ganshyam
Singh, Saharanpur's chief medical officer. "But we have not been able
to identify the killer virus. We hope these two specialist teams will be
able to do so."
- At least 60 children have died in Saharanpur, 200 kilometers
(120 miles) east of the state capital, Lucknow, said Chandan L. Choudhury,
a district official.
- Children have also died in the neighboring Muzaffarnagar,
Ghaziabad and Meerut districts.
- Hundreds of children die each year from diseases borne
by mosquitoes and flies in Uttar Pradesh, India's largest state in size
and population, because of poverty and the lack of hygiene and education.
- Indeed, officials on Saturday tried to reassure the public,
saying the deaths were not unusual.
- "It's a regular phenomenon. Each year, after the
rainy season and before winter sets in, many, many children die in (the
state). This is nothing alarming," said Navtej Singh, the official.