The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tetanus epidemic fears in Dinajpur

Raigunj, Sept. 4: A day after an immunised child came down with polio symptoms, a disaster stared the district health administration in the face with a nine-day-old baby dying of tetanus and two others fighting for their lives at Raigunj Sadar hospital.

The mothers of the three babies had been vaccinated against tetanus during their pregnancies in different health centres in Uttar Dinajpur.

The incident has sparked panic at the hospital, coming close on the heels of the reported polio case of Tandra Ghosh, a four-year-old girl who had been vaccinated against the hobbling disease. The reported cases have raised serious doubts about the government immunisation programme in the district.

With only a blanket insulating them from the cold floor, the suffering children lay in neglect in the hospital corridor.

“We do not have an isolation unit and the chances of other children in the ward contracting the disease is too great a risk to run,” an on-duty nurse said.

Babli Bibi, worried about her child and the hospital treatment, said: “A painful abscess on Rekha’s stomach prompted me to take her to the Itahar health centre. The doctor, unable to diagnose the condition, referred me to the sadar hospital and here, doctorbabu told me she had tetanus.’’

The irony is that Babli completed the tetanus toxide course during her pregnancy. Even her child had been inoculated.

District health department sources said the “success rate’’ in the vaccination programmes in different blocks had not even crossed a measly 25 per cent. “An unprecedented rise in infectious diseases in the district, that too when children and their mothers’ have been immunised, has spawned fears of an epidemic,” said Dhiman Pal, member of the state executive committee, Association of Health Service Doctors.

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