A “MYSTERY fever” sweeping through India has killed 100 people as doctors discover two separate diseases are sparking the chaos.
Indian health authorities say the illnesses – one caused by bacteria and the other, a virus – has claimed the lives of 40 kids in India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh.
The mystery disease has killed more than 40 children since August[/caption]
The bug could infect millions more as it spread to India’s tourist hotspots[/caption]
Officials say there are 100 new cases of both fevers everyday, according to CBS.
Scrub yphus is one of them and is a bacterial fever which spreads through bites from fleas and larval mites found in bushes.
Symptoms include a fever, headache and body aches which progress into rashes then inflammation of the nervous system and can cause confusion and even coma.
Dengue is a viral infection which also spreads through bites from infected mosquitoes and leaves patients with a fever, muscle and join pains. In severe cases, it can lead to internal bleeding and death.
Indian authorities first reported cases of the mystery fever in Uttar Pradesh’s Firozabad district on August 18.
On Tuesday, the district remained the epicentre of the outbreak with 51 deaths, including 40 children.
There are fears the virus could get out of control as it spreads to five other districts, including Agra, where the iconic Taj Mahal draws hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.
With millions living below the poverty line and poor sanitation standards and health care, there are concerns the disease could quickly spread beyond India’s border.
‘DYING VERY QUICKLY’
Some Indian news outlets are reporting that hospitals are already filling up with patients and running out medical resources, CNS News reports.
The Times of India reported at least 5,000 people being treated in hospitals in Firozabad.
Neeta Kulshrestha, the most senior health official of Firozabad district, said: “The patients, especially children, in hospitals are dying very quickly.”
Meanwhile, Covid-19 wards are being turned into hubs to dying patients.
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath pledged to help families of people with the disease.
“The dedicated Covid-19 ward at the district hospital of Firozabad is reserved for patients suffering from this fever,” he said.
So far, officials are unable to give an exact breakdown of scrub typhus and dengue cases.
The country has already been overwhelmed by Covid-19, particularly by the Delta variant which spread like wildfire with nearly 440,000 deaths.
What is scrub typhus?
Scrub typhus, also known as bush typhus, is a disease caused by a bacteria called Orientia tsutsugamushi.
Scrub typhus is spread to people through bites of infected chiggers (larval mites).
The most common symptoms of scrub typhus include fever, headache, body aches, and sometimes rash.
Most cases of scrub typhus occur in rural areas of Southeast Asia, Indonesia, China, Japan, India, and northern Australia.
Anyone living in or traveling to areas where scrub typhus is found could get infected.
Symptoms of scrub typhus usually begin within 10 days of being bitten.
- Fever and chills
- Body aches and muscle pain
- A dark, scab-like region at the site of the chigger bite (also known as eschar)
- Mental changes, ranging from confusion to coma
- Enlarged lymph nodes
It comes as authorities scramble to keep the highly deadly Nipah virus under control as the disease killed a 12-year-old boy.
Officials in India’s southern Kerala state are racing to contain the lethal virus after new infections were confirmed over the weekend.
The government has stepped up contact tracing efforts with 188 people who came into contact with the young boy having already been identified, Kerala’s health minister Veena George said in Monday.
Some 20 contacts are considered high-risk because they are family members and are under strict quarantine or in hospital.
Two healthcare workers who nursed the boy are already showing symptoms of Nipah and were admitted to hospital and are having blood tests done.
Indian authorities have also sealed off a two-miles radius around the boy’s home and were screening people for symptoms in neighbouring states, including Tamil Nadu, which is on high alert.
It comes amid fears from scientists the contagious bug could one day trigger a pandemic dubbed “The Big One”.
Dr Jonathan Epstein, vice president for science and outreach at the EcoHealth Alliance, explained how they are tracking the virus and are worried about its potential.
He told us: “We know very little about the genetic variety of Nipah-related viruses in bats, and what we don’t want to happen is for a strain to emerge that is more transmissible among people.
“So far, Nipah is spread among close contact with an infected person, particularly someone with respiratory illness through droplets, and we generally don’t see large chains of transmission.
“However, given enough opportunity to spread from bats to people, and among people, a strain could emerge that is better adapted to spreading among people.
“This is a zoonotic virus knocking on the door, and we have to really work now to understand where human cases are occurring, and try to reduce opportunities for a spillover, so that it never gets the chance to adapt to humans.”
This comes as Dr Melanie Saville, director of vaccine research and development at CEPI, previously warned The Sun Online the world needs to be prepared for the next “big one”.
She told The Sun Online: “Most crucially we shouldn’t just be looking at Nipah.
“We know that a future pandemic is inevitable, and there are many other emerging infectious diseases that are recognised as having pandemic potential.
“This includes known disease threats, like influenza, as well as new or as-of-yet identified pathogens, known as ‘Disease X’.”
Nipah – which was first discovered in 1999 in Malaysia – has been tracked in outbreaks in south and south-east Asia with a lethality rate of between 40 to 75 per cent.
Covid-19’s fatality rate is around one per cent, according to Imperial College, so a Nipah pandemic would kill many more people.
It has also been named by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as one of 16 priority pathogens for research and development due to its potential to trigger an epidemic.
And chillingly, Nipah is just one of 260 known viruses with epidemic potential.
Fruit bats are known transmitters of the Nipah virus[/caption]
Doctors and relatives wearing protective gear carry the body of a victim during a Nipah virus outbreak in 2018 (STOCK)[/caption]
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