At least 165 people have died of meningococcal meningitis, a contagious disease, in the three northeastern states of Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram in the past one month, officials said.
Of the 165 deaths, 140 were reported from Meghalaya, 15 in Tripura and 10 in Mizoram.
"The three northeastern states have borders with the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh where meningococcal meningitis is spreading in an epidemic form," said an official of the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD).
Over 2,000 people, including children and women were also taken ill.
A two-member team of New Delhi-based NICD led by joint director Jagdir Singh visited the affected East Khasi Hills and Garo Hills areas of Meghalaya and helped doctors in the region deal with the disease.
"We have enough anti-meningococcal meningitis vaccines and a number of medical teams are working round-the-clock to deal with the situation," said Meghalaya health service director A. Kynjing.
In Tripura, at least 15 people died and several more were taken ill after the disease struck remote Longtharai Valley areas of Dhalai district in the past two weeks.
"We have sent three medical teams with adequate medicines and paramedics to the affected areas," said Tripura Health Minister Tapan Chakraborty.
"Like the other northeastern states, we have launched a massive public awareness campaign on the need for cleanliness as it is an airborne disease," said Y.P. Singh, principal secretary of the Tripura government in-charge of health department.
Said R.K. Dhar, an expert on communicable diseases: "Meningococcal meningitis is a communicable disease that is spread through droplets of respiratory or throat secretions. The most common symptoms are stiff neck, high fever, headache and vomiting."
"Even when the disease is diagnosed early and adequate therapy instituted, five to ten percent of the patients die typically within 24 to 48 hours of onset of symptoms," he said.