Hard on the heels of a drought which has brought hunger and hardship to the Indian state of Bihar, has come an epidemic of smallpox.
People with smallpox and sufferers from malnutrition; people outside temple; man refusing vaccination; vaccinations in progress
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Background: Hard on the heels of a drought which has brought hunger and hardship to the Indian state of Bihar, has come an epidemic of smallpox. Smallpox coupled with malnutrition has taken a big toll of the population.
Despite emergency vaccination programmes carried out by medical teams drafted into the area, many older people refuse to take the injections. Thousands are flocking to temples to pray for the lifting of the epidemic.
Officials figures put the death toll in Gaya at 333, most of the victims being women and children. Medical experts say that the main causes of the epidemic are malnutrition and contaminated water supplies.
Mass vaccination and a programme of educating the people on the benefits of treatment has been given priority by the government but there appears no sign yet that the outbreak has been contained. Masses of affected people, however, prefer to pray at the temples than be vaccinated. Their prayers are directed to the goddess Sitala, who is said to be able to save all epidemics.