Encephalitis Kills 100 Indian Children

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Mosquito-borne Japanese encephalitis spread to new areas of India's (search) most populous state on Saturday as the death toll from the preventable disease rose to 100 amid a shortage of funds to pay for vaccinations, officials said.

At least 28 more children were reported sick in the Hardoi (search), Bahraich and Hardoi districts of northern Uttar Pradesh state, and at least 100 children have died from the disease in the last 10 days, state officials said.

Vaccination protects against the disease, which often hits children, but state health authorities say there isn't enough money to immunize all children in encephalitis-prone areas.

"We do not have the funds. We had a target to vaccinate 7 million children up to the age of 10, but we could vaccinate only 200,000 children," said Dr. Sudan Singh (search), who manages the government-run Baba Raghav Das Medical College hospital in Gorakhpur.

The government is now seeking the help of UNICEF and the World Health Organization to help meet the target, he said.

Encephalitis kills dozens of people each year in Uttar Pradesh, India's largest state, where health services are poor. According to official estimates, about 3,500 people have died of encephalitis in the state over the past 25 years.

Symptoms of the disease start with a very high fever, followed by seizures, vomiting, then vomiting of blood. Eventually, victims can fall into a coma. Behavioral changes and delirium also often occur.

More than 200 children have been hospitalized in the state, many of them in serious condition, Mathur said.

The state government decided to provide free treatment to the sick children because most of them belonged to poor families, said Neera Yadav, the top state government official, after visiting the two government hospitals in Gorakhpur on Friday.