Encephalitis official death toll crossed 220, but real numbers can be higher officials said

Japanese encephalitis deaths continue to rise in Uttar Pradesh and the latest toll has crossed 220 in less than a month.

Dr.T.N.Dhole from Microbiology Department of Lucknow's Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences blamed "official apathy" for the unabated spread of the killer brain fever, which had been striking eastern Uttar Pradesh for nearly three decades, informs Medindia.

The mosquito-borne disease, which causes high fever and vomiting and can leave patients comatose, has killed thousands in India since 1978. In the past few weeks more than 500 people, mostly children between the ages of six months and 15 years, have been treated for the disease, which occurs regularly during India's monsoon season.

Officials fear the death toll may be much higher as fatalities in poor rural areas often go unreported.

At present there is no cure for the disease once it has been contracted, but three vaccines are in use worldwide that have reportedly been successful in preventing the disease.

Although outbreaks occur every year, Uttar Pradesh authorities have failed to develop an effective program of vaccination.

Dr. T.N. Dhole, professor of microbiology at Lucknow's Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Medical Institute, said that the Indian Council of Medical Research had prevented field trials of a vaccine used in China, the BBC reported. He alleged that the institute blocked the trial in order to promote a more expensive vaccine manufactured by its laboratories. No one was available for comment when the BBC contacted the institute, reports the AP.

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