Uttar Pradesh may not get immediate respite from Japanese encephalitis, which has taken a toll of more than 200 lives since it broke out July 29.
Three patients, including an adult, succumbed to the disease at the King George's Medical University (KGMU) here Thursday, while 17 deaths were reported from Gorakhpur and about half a dozen in the districts of eastern Uttar Pradesh.
Things have virtually been left to god's mercy, with the state administration expressing helplessness in arresting the spread of the brain fever.
"The virus grows largely between August and October, but vaccination, which is the only effective preventive method, cannot be undertaken after the outbreak of the disease," Uttar Pradesh's director general of health O.P. Singh told.
"Vaccines will not be of any use now. But I must say that we have now learnt a lesson and we would be better equipped to deal with the disease next year."
But Singh's word cannot be taken at face value as Japanese encephalitis has been striking the state for 27 consecutive years, claiming more than 1,500 lives.
Unofficial reports say the actual toll could be much higher than 200, as there is no system of recording the deaths in villages and smaller towns where the disease is believed to have taken a heavy toll.
"At this stage, anti-mosquito treatment through fogging is the only way to curb the rapid spread of the virus," Singh said. But he was not sure if fogging machines were available in the dozen odd affected districts.
Social activists in Gorakhpur - the epicentre of the disease - had demanded the removal of pigs from residential areas.
"Yes, we had decided to launch a drive against the proliferation of pigs in residential areas; but then local legislators have come in the way to pressurise the administration to defer its plan," a district official told on condition of anonymity.
"Who doesn't know that the presence of pigs is a major source of mosquito breeding?"
Even Governor T.V. Rajeshwar, who visited Gorakhpur last week to take stock of the situation, had urged the administration to take measures against pigs.
The disease had taken a toll of 228 people in 2004, but health officials say it could be much higher this time.
"Unlike 2004 and many preceding years, when the disease remained confined only to eastern Uttar Pradesh, the virus has spread across to Lucknow in central Uttar Pradesh," said an official.