An unknown strain of brain fever has killed 35 children in three months in Uttar Pradesh, leaving health authorities puzzled and unprepared.
After Japanese encephalitis and viral encephalitis killed at least 400 children in eastern Uttar Pradesh earlier this year, a mysterious but fatal virus is prowling the region claiming children as victims.
'The killer virus is still at large so we are actually at a loss as to how we should tackle it,' said K.P. Kushwaha, a paediatrician at the Gorakhpur Medical College, a nodal centre for the treatment of various kinds of brain fever.
As many as 2,050 children, mostly from poor families, were hospitalised in various hospitals in the region since April. 'Of these, 448 have died,' said V.S. Nigam, a health official here.
Japanese encephalitis killed over 1,400 children last year in Uttar Pradesh, one of India's most backward and impoverished states with a population of over 180 million.
'Thanks to large-scale vaccination of seven million children in May, Japanese encephalitis was nipped in the bud. But then we were struck by Coxsackie-B, a viral encephalitis, and now this unknown virus,' Kushwaha told IANS over the phone from Gorakhpur.
Named after Coxsackie, a town in New York where it was discovered, its symptoms were quite similar to that of Japanese encephalitis even though it was reportedly less fatal.
The latest virus has symptoms similar to Coxsackie. A team of experts from the Emergency Medical Relief Centre visited Gorakhpur and has taken samples of the virus for analysis.