Japanese encephalitis death toll up to 874 in South Asia

Japanese encephalitis killed at least 21 people in northern India overnight Tuesday, bringing the death toll from the mosquito-borne disease in South Asia to 874.

Most of those killed those killed in the outbreak in Uttar Pradesh, India's largest state and one of its poorest, and neighboring Nepal have been children under age 15, authorities have said.

In Nepal, the disease has killed at least 204 people, mostly children, and sickened more than 1,200 since April, Assistant Health Minister Nikshya Sumshere Rana told reporters Tuesday.

The mosquito-borne virus can be checked by vaccinations, but Rana said the impoverished Himalayan kingdom is short of vaccine and is trying to import it from neighboring China, the AP reports.

Nepal borders Uttar Pradesh, where 61 new patients were admitted to state-run hospitals on Monday while another 21 died overnight, said O.P. Singh, the top health official in the state.

More than 3,000 patients are being treated in Uttar Pradesh hospitals with symptoms of the disease, which causes swelling of the brain, high fever and vomiting and can sometimes lead to coma and death. It is spread by mosquitos that breed in water puddles left by annual monsoon rains that run from June through September, officials say.

"The death toll has now reached 670 since the outbreak of encephalitis with maximum deaths reported from Gorakhpur," a district in the eastern part of the state, Singh told The Associated Press.

At least 542 people have died in Gorakhpur, Singh said.

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