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JE cremation bar in village

Aug. 3: A section of residents of a Jalpaiguri village forbade a family from bringing back the body of an elderly sufferer of suspected Japanese Encephalitis as some villagers thought they would get “infected”.

Sachimohan Sarkar, 75, died last night in the Jalpaiguri district hospital. His family wanted to take him back to Kachua-Boalmari village for the last rites. The farmer was cremated at the Jalpaiguri municipal crematorium today because Sarkar’s son did not want to antagonise other villagers.

According to sources in various hospitals across north Bengal, eight persons have died of suspected Japanese Encephalitis in the past 24 hours, taking the death toll to 128 since January.

However, the director of health services, Biswaranjan Sathpathy, said only two deaths were reported, one from Siliguri, the other from Balurghat.

“My father was in Haldibari hospital and sent to the Jalpaiguri district hospital on July 31,” son Dulu said.

This morning, when Dulu and his relatives wanted to take body home, some villagers protested. “They were apprehensive that if his body was taken to the village, the residents would get infected. I tried to convince them that JE does not spread that way. But they did not listen. I had to cremate my father in Jalpaiguri,” Dulu said.

This morning, two persons, Laxmi Das, 65, and Lob Debnath, 45, died at the Malda Medical College and Hospital of an “unknown fever”.

“We could not get his tests done at the hospital. We were told that they have only one JE test kit and that could not be used for just two-three patients. The kit could be used only if there were over 100 blood samples,” Swapna Das, Lob Debnath’s sister said.

M.A. Rashid, vice-principal of Malda Medical College, said: “We cannot comment on the cause of the deaths.”

Sources said around 35 patients suffering from fever were in the Malda hospital and no tests had been conducted.

In Balurghat district hospital, Samar Mondal, 48, died of suspected Japanese Encephalitis today.

Kulsum Nisa, 65, from Naxalbari, died in NBMCH. Pabitra Burman, 22, from Cooch Behar, died at the Siliguri district hospital. Five-month-old Raj Singha from Khoribari, died at NBMCH today. Japanese Encephalitis could not be confirmed in either case, so they were classified as deaths from Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES).

Nazrul Islam, 14, a Class IX student, died of AES at Chopra in North Dinajpur today.

Sathpathy said: “Two deaths were reported in the past 24 hours from Balurghat and Siliguri. The number of admissions is decreasing. Those who died were old patients.” Asked about the lack of JE tests in Malda, he said: “That is not true.”