At least 56 people, mostly children, died after a mysterious outbreak of fever in Uttar Pradesh, a state located in northern India. The condition, still unknown, has symptoms that include high fever, joint and headache pain, dehydration and nausea. In some cases, rash on the upper and lower limbs. None of them tested positive for Covid-19.
In the six districts affected by the disease, doctors suspect the outbreak is caused by a particularly severe form of dengue. This is because the blood tests of some patients show a decrease in the number of platelets. “Patients, especially children, are dying very quickly,” said Neeta Kulshrestha, health authority for the district of Firozabad, where medicines and a team of 11 specialist doctors were sent.
Dengue is a viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes found in tropical and subtropical regions around the world, mainly in cities. There are four types of dengue virus, which means that an individual can be infected four times. Most cases are mild, but it is possible for the virus to cause acute flu-like symptoms. Without medical care, the disease can be fatal. The World Health Organization estimates that around 390 million people have already been infected by dengue in the world. In recent decades, the number of infections and deaths has increased fourfold between 2000 and 2015.
Another possibility considered by doctors is Japanese encephalitis, also transmitted by mosquitoes. The WHO estimates that the disease affects around 68,000 people a year in several Asian countries. In general, this disease is rare, but it has a high fatality rate. Almost one in three people who contract the virus dies.
For both conditions, there is no known cure, but there are safe and effective vaccines that can prevent Japanese encephalitis. Tests are underway to find out if any of these viruses or other causes are behind the deadly outbreak. Weakened and ineffective mosquito control programs, as well as the rise in insecticide-resistant vectors, are seen as reasons why certain diseases have had a dramatic and often lethal increase in recent decades. Renewing investment is essential to fight diseases that can lead to fatal outbreaks like what is happening now.