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Season of bugs bites Mumbai

Mumbai, March 16: The microbial siege of Maharashtra intensified today with the African viral fever chikungunya added to the ranks of the bird flu in Jalgaon, dengue in Malegaon and the gastro-enteritis outbreak tormenting south Mumbai.

Despite its name, chikungunya “has nothing to do with chicken”, health secretary Vijay Satbir Singh told reporters. But while the birds were being culled in thousands in avian flu-hit Jalgaon today, the chikungunya virus was sending about 100 people to hospital in Solapur.

“It was isolated first in Tanzania in 1952, and is found mostly in African countries. A milder form has been reported in India,” Singh said. “So far, 100 cases have been reported from Solapur but patients have recovered after three to four days of treatment.”

Singh added that the National Institute of Virology, Pune, hadn’t yet confirmed the presence of the chikungunya virus, also known as the buggy creek virus. Like dengue, another viral fever, the disease spreads through mosquitoes and is not transmitted from human to human.

Chikungunya announces itself in a rash of flu-like symptoms, such as severe headache and disabling joint pain, chills, temperatures above 40'C (104'F), nausea and vomiting. The joints of the upper and lower limbs become swollen and tender.

But most patients recover in three to five days and haemorrhage is rare. Children, however, can show neurological symptoms.

Singh said the suspected dengue outbreak in Malegaon, in Nashik district, has been controlled with only 68 patients admitted to hospital today after some 800 in the past two-three days.

The gastro-enteritis cases reported from congested areas of south Mumbai, however, continued to rise sharply. This evening, 170 patients with severe vomiting and diarrhoea were being treated at five hospitals.

“All are out of danger,” municipal commissioner Johny Joseph said.

Contaminated water supplied to localities like Kalbadevi, Bhuleshwar and Crawford Market is believed to be the source of the bacterial infection. The death toll has remained at Tuesday night’s figure of two.

In Jalgaon’s four affected talukas, the cull count had almost touched 30,000 by 6 pm. “The villagers have been very positive, and there seems to be greater awareness compared with Navapur,” animal husbandry commissioner Bijay Kumar said.

“We expect to cross the day’s target of 35,000, and probably touch 50,000 late tonight. We should finish the culling target of 70,000 to 73,000 birds by Friday.”

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