Mystery illness killing dozens of kids spreads to 30,000 people amid fears it could spread like Covid wildfire

A MYSTERY illness killing dozens of kids has spread to 30,000 people amid fears it could continue to spread.

The bug – believed to be either scrub typhus or dengue fever – is spreading rapidly throughout a northern state of India.

The illness has killed dozens of children as well as adults.

As the country slowly recovers from a deadly second wave of coronavirus, the deaths in Uttar Pradesh have provoked panic among hospital doctors.

About 30,000 people in the city of Kanpur are now infected with the bug, according to local media.

More than 40 people – mostly children – have reportedly died from the virus in the past week.

Many of those infected have been hospitalised, complaining of joint pains, headaches, dehydration and nausea.

In some cases, the patients also suffer from declining platelets, a crucial part of the circulation system that allows blood to clot.

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All of the patients have been tested for coronavirus, and no link has been found between the two illnesses so far.

There are conflicting reports as to what the mysterious illness is.

Some patients have reportedly tested positive for dengue fever – however other sources claim the illness is scrub typhus.

Scrub typhus is spread through bites from infected mites.

During World War II, there was an epidemic of scrub typhus in some countries.

There were significant outbreaks of the disease in India in 2003 and 2007.

There is no vaccine against scrub typhus – sparking fears of another epidemic.

Severe cases require hospitalisation, but symptoms can disappear after two weeks even without treatment.

Doxycycline and antibiotics are effective treatments against scrub typhus if administered early.


The mystery illness is putting a particular strain on hospitals in the city of Firozabad.

Neeta Kulshrestha, the most senior health official of Firozabad district, said: "The patients, especially children, in hospitals are dying very quickly."

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.

The country has already been overwhelmed by Covid-19, particularly by the Delta variant which spread like wildfire with nearly 440,000 deaths.

Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral infection, found in tropical and sub-tropical climates worldwide, mostly in urban and semi-urban areas.

Transmitted by female mosquitoes, dengue is mainly a tropical disease and has been circulating in India for hundreds of years.

While many infections produce only mild illness, cases can develop potentially lethal complications.

According to the World Health Organisation, in its most severe form, there is no specific treatment.

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.

Symptoms include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Headache
  • 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
  • Rash

Source: CDC

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