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Fervour-eve fever alert

With barely a day left for Durga puja to begin, 35-year-old Debarup Saha, who was down with fever, tried non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) and antibiotics to get back on his feet.

But his temperature crashed below normal. He began to sweat so profusely that he had to be given oral-rehydration solution (ORS) for revival. Debarup is now confined to bed for the rest of the week. So much for enjoying Pujas 2004.

Like Debarup, more and more Calcuttans are coming down with viral fever. Accompanied by a running nose, sore throat, acute body ache and temperatures hovering around 102 degrees Fahrenheit, viral fever ' in the wake of the changing weather and the recent rains ' has got the better of many Calcuttans.

'During the past few days, the number of patients contracting the fever has increased. We are getting five to seven patients a day on an average with viral fever. Every second patient is complaining of viral fever,' says Tapan Ghosh, secretary of the infectious chapter of the Indian Academy of Paediatrics.

Apart from the usual cases of fever, many patients are rushing either to hospital or the doctor's chamber with severe dehydration after trying out NSAIDS to bring the fever down in the initial stages.

These drugs cause a dramatic drop in body temperature, much below the normal 98.4 degrees Fahrenheit. 'I have come across many patients who had tried this self-medication in the early stages of the fever and had to be given ORS,' says Susovan Haldar, an expert in respiratory diseases.

Respiratory disease experts like Haldar are getting three to four viral fever patients a day, which is high, compared with one or two stray cases at other times of the year. 'There is nothing much you can do but take paracetamol and wait for the fever to subside. It is all about symptomatic treatment,' says Haldar.

Some patients are asking for a new combo formulation of paracetamol and sodium-bicarbonate because it dissolves faster in the intestine but does not have side-effects like NSAIDS.

'People do want to stay fit during the Pujas and, therefore, want to know more about the new formulation, which seems to act faster than the usual paracetamol drug,' says Tamal Biswas, consultant physician.

Some asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder patients are at times given an antibiotic cover for viral fever to avoid further complications, added Haldar.

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