The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fact-finding mission on mystery ailment

New Delhi, Dec. 3: The Rajya Sabha today directed the government to ascertain the reasons behind the mysterious disease in western Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal, which claimed the lives of more than 100 children.

BJP MP Kalraj Mishra raised the issue through a special mention during zero hour today. Mishra said children were dying in Saharanpur a town in Uttar Pradesh just 40 km from Delhi of a disease that the state has not been able to diagnose. It has taken the form of an epidemic since it broke out two months ago, he added.

Mishra was backed by Ramdeo Bhandary, who said the government should look into the matter. To this, deputy Chairman Najma Heptullah, who was occupying the chair, said even she was worried about the alarming situation in the area.

Heptullah directed minister of state for parliamentary affairs O. Rajagopal to convey to the government that the health and environment ministries should jointly undertake a fact-finding mission on the causes of the epidemic. She observed that it could be malaria, or the illness could be the result of some virus, which needs to be investigated by the Central government as the state does not have the requisite infrastructure.

Teams from Lucknow and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, Delhi, had visited the affected districts but could not diagnose the ailment.

Children of the four districts of western Uttar Pradesh Saharanpur, Baghpat, Muzaffarnagar and Meerut have died of the disease. Local doctors and the administration suspect the disease to be a viral infection or Japanese Encephalitis.

Of these districts, Saharanpur is the worst affected. According to government figures, 44 fatal cases were reported by the government hospital and community centres here. Those who died were between one and 10 years old.

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