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Encephalitis toll climbs to 432 in northern India
Updated: 2005-09-04 15:21

LUCKNOW, India (AP) _ At least 39 more children died in the past 24 hours in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, pushing the death toll to 432 in the state since the outbreak began in late July, officials said Sunday.

Public health officials said more than 500 people were being treated for the disease in hospitals across the state.

Japanese encephalitis is spread from pigs to humans by mosquitos. Children are more susceptible to the disease and most of the dead in the outbreak have been under age 15.

The state's top health official, Dr. O.P. Singh, said 39 children had died overnight, pushing the death toll to 432 since the outbreak began.

Public health workers and volunteers were spraying insecticide to kill mosquitos in the worst-hit districts, Singh said.

The southeastern part of Uttar Pradesh, India's largest state and among its poorest, has been hit hard and most of the deaths were being reported there, medical workers said.

"At least 23 children died overnight in one hospital alone in Gorakhpur," said Dr. Lalit Saxena, the leader of a team of doctors in the town 250 kilometers (155 miles) southeast of the state capital, Lucknow.

Public health officials are attempting to vaccinate the state's 7.5 million children, said K.P. Kushwaha, a doctor at a state-run medical college hospital in Gorakhpur.

The disease causes high fever and vomiting and can sometimes lead to coma and death. It is spread by mosquitos that breed in ponds and puddles left by annual monsoon rains that run from June through September.

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