India's most populous state of Uttar Pradesh is currently battling another killer virus - Coxsackie-B - apart from the already prevalent dengue. The virus, spread through contaminated food and water, has claimed the lives of scores of children on the eastern sector.
At least four people have died so far of the mosquito-borne dengue in western Uttar Pradesh, bordering Delhi, and more than 70 are affected.
However, in the state's poorer eastern corner around Gorakhpur officials are busy grappling with the Coxsackie-B virus that has killed 190 children in the past six months.
"On an average, Coxsackie-B has been taking the life of at least one child every day," disclosed KP Kushwaha, professor in the department of paediatrics at the Gorakhpur Medical College.
As head of the institution's special encephalitis cell, Kushwaha was responsible for handling thousands of children affected by Japanese encephalitis (JE) that had claimed the lives of more then 1,400 children in that region last year.
"Thanks to the large scale vaccination of about seven million children earlier this year, JE was nipped in the bud this time. However, we are busy tackling Coxsackie-B, which is nearly as dangerous - though not as fatal - as encephalitis," Kushwaha said from Gorakhpur.
"It was timely action by the government that ensured ready availability of the JE vaccine," he added. His department remains the nodal centre for treatment of most water-borne and mosquito carried viruses that are a perennial feature in eastern Uttar Pradesh.
The Coxsackie-B virus spreads through contaminated food or water, while JE is a mosquito-borne viral disease transmitted from pigs to human beings by mosquitoes. Coxsackie-B multiplies in the human digestive tract to take on different organs of the body.
The virus is named after Coxsackie, a town in New York state, where it was discovered.
"It could also sometimes lead to multi-organ failure," T.N. Dhole, professor of at the Sanjay Gandhi Post-Graduate Institute here, told IANS. Its symptoms are quite similar to those of JE.
According to Dhole, "Unlike JE, the spread of Coxsackie-B cannot be prevented by vaccination. The only way to keep this virus away is by ensuring good sanitation standards and maintaining supply of clean drinking water."
The state principal health secretary Arun Kumar Misra said: "I believe civic authorities are taking adequate steps to ensure proper dis-infection of water tanks and wells in the rural areas. Efforts are needed to promote health consciousness among the people."