Malda Hospital, Kolkata, two more children have succumbed to an unidentified
viral illness, thereby increasing the total death toll to 12.
The state health administration sent teams from the city's School of Tropical Medicine and Indian Council of Medical Research to the Malda Medical College and Hospital on Sunday where the children died.
The children were admitted with complaints of high fever, headache, vomiting and convulsions.
Mr. Dipankar Majhi, Health department Assistant, told the journalists that the primary diagnosis of children affected with the viral infection is encephalopathy, and the blood and stool samples and throat swabs of children showing symptoms of the infection had been collected.
Encephalopathy is an abnormal condition of the brain that can result in inflammation and hemorrhaging. Acute encephalitis syndrome is generally called Litchi syndrome, a name derived from the fruit litchi, and Malda is a major contributor to litchi production.
"The parents noticed fever and spells of vomiting which intensified and culminated in convulsions, leading to death in five to six hours. The symptoms are so sudden that before the doctors could assess the patients they succumbed. We are advising parents not to feed litchi to children below ten years," said Dr. Prakash Gyne a local physician.
The components of the litchi fruit are identical to those contained in Jamaican fruit, ackee, which caused death of children due to Jamaican vomiting sickness (JVS), an acute encephalitic disease.
But, experts refuted media claims of lichi fruit being the cause of viral illness.