June 9: The mystery disease that claimed more than two dozen infants in the Lalgola subdivision of Murshidabad in the past week has spread to Jangipur, where a three-year-old girl died today.
Records at the subdivisional hospital in Jangipur revealed that 10 other children had died of similar symptoms in the past two weeks. The toll of the mystery disease in the two subdivisions climbed to 43 with the fresh revelations.
Zubeida Khatoon of Haroa village died in the Jangipur Subdivisional Hospital today.
The health department, however, is clueless on the cause of the disease. After returning from a tour of the affected villages, director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee said in Calcutta there could be three reasons for the deaths: the heat, electrolytic imbalance and worm infestation.
After speaking to parents of the children who died in the past week, Chatterjee said most of them died 24 hours within the onset of fever, which was accompanied by convulsions. He added that the children were infected with worms that could have affected the brain.
Another problem was communication. Most villages where children died were remote. This delayed treatment, he said.
Experts from the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases and the School of Tropical Medicine also made similar observations. Their final report is still awaited.
Twenty children with similar symptoms are now being treated in the Jangipur hospital.
In the past few days, 32 children have died in several villages in Lalgola sub-division. While the health department initially did not take the matter seriously, officials have now visited the place and have set up camps. After Lalgola, now the disease has begun spreading in Jangipur. But the villagers are angry due to shortage of medicines in the area.
Meanwhile, the DHS said that blood and stool samples of the children affected with the mysterious fever has been collected and brought to Calcutta for clinical tests. None of the reports out of the 258 blood samples collected, which have come out so far, have indicated malaria as the cause, Chatterjee said.
The DHS has summoned the additional chief medical officer of health of Murshidabad, Priyaranjan Das, who was alleged to have ignored the matter initially, to Writers Buildings, as he did not get to meet him during his tour of the district.