The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fever and fret in sauna city
- Viral wave adds to mercury menace

The heat wave scorching the city for the past four days is set to singe the weekend as well.

And adding to the misery of spiralling temperature is a viral fever spreading rapidly through town.

There is some respite in sight from the heat in south Bengal that could witness isolated rains, but the weatherman says showers are unlikely in Calcutta, hounded by heat and humidity.

'We found chances of thunder and rain in isolated parts of the state. But we cannot say for sure whether there will be rains over Calcutta,' said K.K. Chakraborty, acting deputy director-general of meteorology at Alipore.

The maximum temperature recorded on Friday was 37.5 degrees Celsius, one degree above normal. On Saturday, the maximum temperature is expected to rise to 38 degrees. (See graphic.)

At the beginning of the week, the city was swept by hot winds from the west and moisture-laden winds from the Bay of Bengal, turning Calcutta into a sauna city and leaving its residents gasping for a breather.

'Even though there is no wind from the west over Calcutta now, moisture-laden south-westerly winds are coming in freely from the sea. This has raised the moisture level in the air, leading to the discomfort,' said Chakraborty.

Two low-pressure trough lines in the upper and lower levels have also hiked the humidity.

Meanwhile, the growing number of people falling prey to viral fever has triggered alarm among doctors. They said that once the rain starts, the incidence of viral fever would come down.

According to health department sources, around 80 patients, including a number of children, have been admitted with viral fever to state-run and private hospitals across the city, every day this week.

'This is a common phenomenon at this time of year,' said Pradip Mitra, medical superintendent and vice-principal of RG Kar Medical College and Hospital.

High temperature with upper respiratory distress, cough and cold, body ache, headache, vomiting and sore throat are the main symptoms of viral fever, doctors warned.

'Some children with high temperatures may also suffer convulsions,' warned M.K. Chatterjee, superintendent of BC Roy Memorial Hospital for Children, where around 15 children had been admitted since the viral outbreak.

'In summer, risk increases if there is exposure to sudden changes in temperature. This causes congestion in the respiratory tract and that predisposes the tract to viral infection,' explained Susovan Halder, city-based specialist in internal medicine.

Doctors have warned against suddenly walking into an air-conditioned room after being in the outdoor heat or drinking cold water or showering before cooling down. It is essential to drink enough water to prevent dehydration, they added.

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