An outbreak of encephalitis has killed 60 people in two weeks in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal, a top health official has said, calling the situation "alarming'.
Hundreds of mainly children die across India each year from the mosquito-borne virus, yet West Bengal is not normally one of the worst-hit states.
Only five people died last year in West Bengal from Japanese encephalitis, one form of the virus which normally hits during the monsoon season when mosquitos breed.
p>West Bengal health services director Biswaranjan Satpathy said late on Monday there had been a sudden spike in cases & deaths between July 7 & 20.
Satpathy chaired a meeting of state medical officers on Monday to assess the situation that he said had reached "alarming proportions".
He said there was no specific reason for the jump, & instead cited "seasonal variance".
"It wasn't like this in June, it suddenly shot up," Satpathy moreover told reporters on Tuesday, while visiting a hospital in Siliguri, some 460 kilometres (285 miles) north of state capital Kolkata.
"We are dedicated to this. The cases are happening & that's why people are here. We are trying to assist everyone," he said.
India's most populous states of Uttar Pradesh & Bihar further north are ravaged by encephalitis every year as mainly malnourished children succumb to the disease.
Encephalitis causes brain inflammation & can result in brain damage. Symptoms include headaches, seizures & fever.
Health experts say 70 million children nationwide are at risk.
National health minister Harsh Vardhan last month ordered "extraordinary steps" to end encephalitis, including an immunisation drive & dedicated hospital beds for encephalitis patients in affected districts.
Although there is a vaccine for Japanese encephalitis, mainly children die from other forms of the disease, including acute encephalitis syndrome, the exact causes of which are not known.
HealthDisease & Medical ConditionsJapanese encephalitisWest Bengal