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Rain out, dengue in

Dengue has resurfaced in the city unusually late this year, apparently because of a prolonged monsoon and an alleged drop in guard by the civic authorities during the festival season.

Doctors’ clinics and hospitals in Calcutta and Howrah have reported a spurt in dengue cases over the past couple of weeks while blood banks were finding it hard to meet the rising demand for platelets.

“The number of cases in our clinics was low till October. But in the past three weeks, there has been a sudden rise. The number, though, is still much less than last year,” said critical care expert Subrata Maitra.

Maitra said he has treated 12 patients this month, including two afflicted with haemorrhagic dengue.

Virologists attributed the late surge of dengue to the delayed departure of monsoon. Showers continued until late October, keeping the vector-borne disease in check.

“Since monsoon lingered for a longer period, rain washed away the mosquito larvae. As soon as rain stopped, the stagnant water became breeding ground for the Aedes mosquito (that primarily transmits the dengue virus),” said Nimai Bhattacharya, head of the virology department at School of Tropical Medicine (STM), Calcutta.

He said STM has recorded six dengue cases this month as against 23 last November. “This October, we found only seven confirmed cases whereas the October 2012 count was 57,” he added.

Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) officials said 162 dengue cases had been detected since January this year no fatalities were reported.

Last year, at least 20 people died of the disease.

Government sources blamed a section of CMC employees for the spurt in dengue cases in the city.

“Men from the CMC visited households at least once a week till last month as part of a larvae-control programme. They followed it up with a revisit a week later. This cycle became irregular after the Pujas,” an official said.

“At least 40 per cent of the contract employees hired to intensify the surveillance programme have been terminated because of shortage of funds,” he added.

CMC officials denied the allegations of slackness. “We are as vigilant as ever. It takes at least a month for the dengue virus to affect a human. People who are falling ill this month were probably infected a month ago,” said Atin Ghosh, the mayoral council (health).

Experts said some people contracted the disease outside Calcutta. “A migration of holidaymakers took place during the festival season. Many Calcuttans visited Delhi, where an outbreak was reported this year, and other cities during the Pujas. They acted as carriers of the virus,” said a scientist at the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases-Indian Council of Medical Research, Calcutta.

A shortage of platelets is adding to the agony. “The normal demand is 20 units of platelet per day. For the past three-four days, the demand has gone up to about 50,” said Amit Chakraborty, the manager of LifeCare blood bank.

At CMRI hospital, 11 dengue patients were admitted between November 18 and 24. An average of six dengue patients was getting admitted to Belle Vue Clinic each day this month.

Doctors said most of the cases were reported from Burrabazar, Howrah and the outskirts.