India prepares to vaccinate millions of children against Japanese encephalitis

Preparations have begun to vaccinate millions of children against Japanese encephalitis in northern India, where an outbreak of the disease has killed 1,152 people, mostly children, officials said Thursday.

Of the dead, 1,124 are children, said Vijay Shankar Nigam, who heads the communicable diseases section of the Uttar Pradesh state's health directorate. Nigam said nine people had died overnight in the state.

Uttar Pradesh is the worst-affected area, and the remaining deaths have been reported from the adjacent Bihar state and across the border in Nepal.

O.P. Singh, Uttar Pradesh health services chief, said authorities are gearing up to vaccinate millions of children to prevent a massive outbreak next year.

"Over 7 million children aged up to 15 years will be inoculated and the process will start by the first week of November," he said.

The state has previously faced vaccine shortages due to a lack of funds. Singh said 300,000 vaccines had reached the state, and the government was trying to procure the rest from the global market.

Officials also indicated that the disease might be on the decline.

"The number of deaths is decreasing, the number of patients coming to hospital have also lessened," Singh said. A few weeks back there were 15 to 18 deaths a day, now there are about five deaths a day, he added.

More than 4,800 cases have been reported in Uttar Pradesh since mid-July. Many patients have been sent home after treatment, but some 200 are still in hospitals.

Although the epicenter of the outbreak was in Gorakhpur, 250 kilometer (155 miles) southeast of Lucknow, the disease has spread to 28 of the 70 districts in the state, including its western parts. But an official in the western city of Saharanpur, where some 40 deaths occurred, said Thursday that the outbreak was waning off, reports the AP. I.L.

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Author`s name: Editorial Team