Litchi (Lychee)
Doctors at the Malda Medical College and Hospital in West Bengal on Monday reported receiving six more new cases of the deadly disease. Dormiveglia/FlickrDormiveglia/Flickr

The mysterious viral infection is spreading fast in West Bengal.

Doctors at the Malda Medical College and Hospital in West Bengal reported six more new cases of the deadly disease on Monday, according to The Hindu.

Though the actual cause of the infection is yet to be known fully, according to the doctors, all children affected with the disease have been diagnosed with encephalopathy. Encephalopathy is a term generally used to describe abnormal function and structure of the brain, caused by viral infection or toxins in the body.

According to experts at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the condition can cause irreparable changes to the brain structure. The condition can be diagnosed through spinal tap, blood test, brain scan through computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging or by measuring electrical activity of the brain through electroencephalogram (EEG) test.

The mystery disease claimed eight young lives last week. Ayesha Khatun, Khurshia Khatun, Sarfaraz, Rahul Pramanik, Tariqul, Jahir Sk and Siddiki are among the children who died between Thursday and Saturday. All diseased children were aged between three and five, and hailed from villages of Kaliachak, located nearly 21kms from Malda, The Times of India reported.

The children suffered from high fever, vomiting and convulsions in all cases.

Meanwhile, reports emerged on Saturday, linking the disease to litchi fruit.

"This kind of encephalopathy virus spreads from litchi. The disease originated in China and Vietnam years ago. Later it was seen at Muzaffarpur in Bihar," Dr M A Rashid, vice-principal of Malda Medical College, told TOI.

In 2012, the disease had claimed hundreds of lives. Health officials stated that they have sent blood and stool samples for testing and would take appropriate steps to prevent an outbreak.

"I've heard that the virus spreads from litchi. We will do everything required to prevent an epidemic. A four-member team from the School of Tropical Medicine in Kolkata is on its way to Malda. After getting their report, we'll take steps accordingly," TOI quoted Krishnendu Choudhury, minister of food processing and horticulture, and also the chairman of the Medical College Patients' Welfare Committee.

However, according to The Hindu, some health experts have refuted the litchi link.