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India probes epidemic that killed 500 children

Media reports say encephalitis has killed 500 Uttar Pradesh children in past two months
In this picture taken 27 July 2006, An Indian child suffering from Japanese Encephalitis lies on a bed at The Baba Raghav Das Medical College in Gorakhpur,some 250 kilometers (155 miles) southeast of Lucknow. (AFP/Getty Images)

India's national child rights commission has ordered the government of Uttar Pradesh to report on the status of an encephalitis epidemic that media reports claim has killed as many as 500 children in the poverty-afflicted state over the past two months, the Times of India reports.

In a letter to the state chief secretary, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights ( NCPCR) said that the issue amounted to violation of 'children's right to life, survival and development,' the paper said.

Almost always first reported as a "mystery virus" or "mystery fever," epidemics of encephalitis have become an annual ritual in northern India over the past several years, seemingly without any aggressive government action to combat the problem.