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Fever samples old and too few

Calcutta, Oct. 10: Blood samples that were a month-old were sent to Pune for tests after the Bengal health minister suggested that a mysterious fever sweeping several stretches of North 24-Parganas “could be chikungunya”, sources said.

Besides, till date, the state government has been able to send only seven samples to the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune, though over a thousand people are down in Baduria with the fever that involves crippling joint pain.

“We have received a parcel of seven samples from Bengal for the chikungunya test. It will take four to five days for getting the final results of the test since there is tremendous pressure. We are getting a large number of samples from other parts of the country,” A. Mishra, NIV director, told The Telegraph from Pune.

State officials said seven samples are adequate for tests but experts said at least 30 to 40 specimens collected at random should have been sent to facilitate a comprehensive analysis. “It is very difficult to get an impression of the prevalent disease in an area with such a small number of samples,” another NIV official said.

Health department sources said the samples were collected in the first week of September by a team from the School of Tropical Medicine (STM) but they were despatched to Pune last week.

Last Thursday, health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra had said the mysterious fever in Baduria “could be chikungunya” and blood samples would be sent to Pune.

“It would have been better if they were sent earlier. If these were not preserved properly at right temperature (serum should be preserved at 4 degrees Celsius), there might be problems in identifying the virus,” said an expert at the NIV.

The official figure of patients has touched 1,016. More samples are now expected to be sent to Pune. STM doctors toured the affected villages yesterday and collected the additional samples.

“It will be much better if they seek chikungunya test kits from here and conduct the investigations there. It would be much faster, easier and effective than sending samples here,” an NIV official said.

However, as of now, there is no move by the state to ask for the kits. The Indian Council of Medical Research is planning to bring test kits on its own to Bengal.

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