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Monday, 26 February, 2001, 15:37 GMT
Panic over mystery disease outbreak
Japanese Encephalitis victim
Doctors fear the outbreak might be Japanese Encephalitis, which kills 10,000 a year
An outbreak of a mystery brain disease in north-east India has killed at least 30 people and created panic among local residents.

Officials in Siliguri, the second largest city in West Bengal, say more than 400 people have been admitted to hospital.

Although doctors have been unable to identify the mosquito-borne disease, the symptoms - high fever, headache and nausea - resemble those of Japanese Encephalitis.

Mosquito
Rice paddies in the area provide ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes
Doctors and nurses have joined those fleeing the city after some medical personnel died treating patients.

Specialists fly in

Specialists from India's leading institutes have been flown to Siliguri.

Blood samples have also been sent to laboratories in the United States.

Experts say Siliguri would be prone to an outbreak of Japanese Encephalitis, given the many rice paddies in the area which would allow mosquitoes to hatch freely.

There are also large pig farms close to residential areas, which would aid the spread of the virus.

Many of the victims have been children, another common hallmark of the disease.

Mosquitoes

Japanese Encephalitis causes severe swelling in the brain and is passed from animals to humans by mosquito bites.

It is prevalent in agricultural areas throughout south and east Asia, killing about 10,000 people each year.

But doctors in Siliguri say they still cannot be certain about the identity of the latest outbreak.

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See also:

30 Mar 99 | Medical notes
Japanese encephalitis
12 Sep 00 | South Asia
Brain fever spreads in India
15 Nov 99 | South Asia
Brain fever kills 100 children in India
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