Some where in Uttar Pradesh....

It’s a virus that has already claimed over 100 lives but Indian and American scientists seem to have no clue about what it is. While the entire country is busy dealing with H1N1 influenza, a mystery virus is causing havoc in Uttar Pradesh. Since January, the state has recorded 665 cases of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES)—a severe neurological condition associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Around 137 people have already succumbed to the viral infection. Lab investigations have revealed that only 34 of the cases and four of the deaths were caused by Japanese Encephalitis—a known scourge in the state. However, scientists have no clue what caused the rest of the 133 encephalitis deaths and 631 cases. According to officials, this mystery virus has been causing brain fever and killing people in UP since last year but no breakthrough has been made regarding the virus’s identity and nature. Experts from Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Atlanta had picked up 150 samples from UP to help identify the virus. But they too have failed to make any headway. Director of National Institute of Virology (Gorakhpur) Dr Milind Gore said, “We are working on identifying the virus and its origin. At present we don’t know what’s causing these cases of AES and deaths. We suspect it could be a type of enterovirus.” Dr Gore added, “It is clear that JE alone isn’t causing AES. We recently checked 450 stool swabs and found that 68% of them were positive for enteroviruses. However, we don’t know exactly which one from this family of viruses is the dominant one behind the deaths. Even CDC experts haven’t figured it out.” “H1N1 has proved to be a setback for the work on encephalitis in UP. Improved methods of diagnosis and new primers were to be tested against the unknown virus,” an official said. A four-member team of the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, is in Gorakhpur to crack the code of the mystery virus. The team has been assigned the job of ascertaining the nature and characteristics of the virus, how it is spreading and eventually to find a way to control it so as to provide guidelines to the state government that will implement them as preventive measures. “Our team is doing a surveillance of the environment and the breed of mosquitoes and trying to understand which family the virus hails from,” NIV director A C Mishra said.

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