Specialists in contagious disease form Britain, the Unites States and France are due to arrive in Italy shortly to investigate a mysterious virus that has killed ???
Specialists in contagious disease form Britain, the Unites States and France are due to arrive in Italy shortly to investigate a mysterious virus that has killed ???ixty-one babies in Naples. The virus struck again on Saturday (10 February), killing an eighteen month old girl.
SYNOPSIS: Naples has the wo???st infant mortality rate in Europe. Out of every thousand babies born in the poorer parts of the city, a hundred and thirty seven die. Most of the deaths attributed to the mystery virus have occurred here -- at the Santo Bono Children's Hospital.
The exact nature of the virus, which attacks the respiratory system, is unknown -- despite intensive research in Italy. It has caused Neapolitan parents to panic, and hundreds arrive at the Santo Bono hospital and clinics every day, bringing children with signs of respiratory complaints.
On Friday (9 February), eighteen month old Sonia di Leva was admitted to Santo Bono. Within hours she was dead -- the sixty-first victim in seven months.
The virus had become known as "the poor people's disease". It is only fatal to children already weakened by poor food and insanitary conditions. Naples is host to many infectious diseases and a third of all Italian children who die from respiratory problems come from the city.
Santo Bono is the only children's hospital in southern Italy with a properly equipped intensive care unit for babies -- eighty percent of whom have respiratory troubles. It was here that the scare began last month, although the first death from the mystery virus occurred in the middle of last year. In January this year, twenty-two emergency health clinics were set up in the poorest quarters of Naples and over two thousand babies have been screened by doctors for possible symptoms.
Frightened parents have started to sprinkle disinfectants in slum areas and the have appealed to the City Council to purify the sewer system in Naples.
The last great public scare in Naples was the 1884 cholera epidemic which killed thousands of Neapolitans. Then, the outcry was so great that a new sewer system was installed within a few years. That system is the one still in use today. After the last cholera outbreak, in 1973, the Italian government voted hundreds of millions of dollars for the construction of a new network of sewers. But little money had actually been spent and the insanitary conditions in the poorer parts of Naples remain virtually unchanged.