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Monday, November 15, 1999 Published at 16:39 GMT

World: South Asia

Brain fever kills 100 children in India

Health officials in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh say at least 100 children have died after an outbreak of Japanese encephalitis, or brain fever, over the past three weeks.

Another 500 children have been admitted to hospitals around the state.

The outbreak has been detected in 10 out of 23 districts, and five deaths have been reported from the state capital Hyderabad.

State officials said they were trying to contain the spread of the disease, which is transmitted by mosquitoes.

"As many as 119 medical teams and 230 para-medical teams are working in the field. The situation is being monitored in all the 337 affected villages," Andhra Pradesh director of health, KSV Prasada Rao told Reuters news agency.

Ban on pig rearing

The chief minister, Chandrababu Naidu, reviewed the outbreak of the disease with officials at a special meeting.

[ image: Children are especially vulnerable to the virus]
Children are especially vulnerable to the virus
He has ordered district administrators to put an end to pig rearing because experts say pigs are carriers of the Japanese encephalitis virus, which are then transmitted to humans by mosquitoes.

Some 1 million people are said to be dependent on pig farming in the state. Administrators have now been asked to find them an alternative source of livelihood.

A BBC correspondent in the state, Omar Farooq, says the deaths have created a scare among residents of Hyderabad.

Health teams sprayed insecticide in the affected areas and distributed vaccines.

A publicity campaign has also been launched and parents are being asked to report any symptoms of the disease as soon as possible.

Health officials say the earlier it is detected, the easier it is to cure someone of encephalitis.

Health minister S Aruna said the situation was under control.

"We are taking effective steps to curb the incidence of brain fever," she said.

The worst hit areas are Kurnool, Anantapur and Prakasam.

Andhra Pradesh registered 984 cases of Japanese encephalitis in 1997, including 247 deaths, and 524 cases in 1998 with 201 deaths.

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