Especially grim encephalitis toll feared in India

Friday, June 21, 2013

GORAKHPUR, India — A mosquito-borne disease that preys on the young and malnourished is sweeping across poverty-riven northern India again this monsoon season in what officials worry could be the deadliest outbreak in nearly a decade.

Encephalitis has killed at least 118 children so far this year and authorities fear the death toll could reach about 1,000, said Dr. R.N. Singh of the Encephalitis Eradication Movement, an Indian nonprofit.

While India’s efforts against polio and tuberculosis get plenty of attention, the poor farmers and day laborers of eastern Uttar Pradesh state face an almost-silent emergency, battling a disease that has killed thousands of children over the past eight years.

Many families have taken out crushing loans for treatment. The children who survive often cannot communicate because of brain damage. They stare off listlessly, unable to recognize friends they played with just months before. Some are so severely disabled that their impoverished parents are told to abandon them.

Source: Associated Press (link opens in a new window)

Health Care
infectious diseases, public health