The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Blame the bug for that high fever

Do not drink cold water immediately after a walk in the sun

Always use sunscreen lotion or avoid walking long stretches in the heat

If you work in a central AC office, adjust to the temperature conditions before drinking even regular water

Seven years ago, doctors called it Calcutta fever. They now prefer the term acute viral fever. Call it by any name, but the sore throat-high fever syndrome has only gone from bad to worse.

According to city doctors, the fever this year has been marked by high temperature, upper respiratory tract infection and has been persisting for eight to 10 days, which is longer than usual.

For the past two weeks, the average paediatrician’s chamber in Calcutta has been full of children with fever as high as 103 degrees Fahrenheit, along with vomiting and respiratory tract congestion.

Roughly seven out of every 10 adults seen in a general practitioner’s chamber are complaining of the same problem. Add to that infection in the eye, throat and general weakness, as well.

“All we can do is offer some symptomatic treatment in the form of paracetamol, anti-allergic drugs and pain-killers. Antibiotics are given to prevent super-imposed bacterial infections among adults, but in most cases, antibiotics do not work. The best is to wait for the virus to become weak and then take a dose of paracetamol,” says medicine expert Tarun Mondol.

The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) has also received more fever than malaria cases this year. If records are any indication, between January and April this year, of 37,474 suspected malaria cases arriving at CMC health centres, only 392 tested positive. The rest were cases of high fever and other infections, says officer on special duty (health) Atanu Mukherjee.

Doctors blame the fever spurt on a combination of weather conditions and general negligence. The virus present in the upper respiratory tract area and in the air droplets invades the body system when “perfect breeding conditions” are created by the victim.

“Whenever we drink cold water or a soft drink standing under the hot sun or immediately after coming indoors, without adjusting to the change in the weather condition, the suitable environment for the virus invasion is created,” says Mondol.

Paediatrician B.K. Monocha has been advising parents not to send children suffering from viral fever to school. “For the past few weeks, most of my patients have been children down with viral fever. Since the fever has been lasting a week, antibiotics are used as a last resort,” says Monocha.

Children suffering from asthma and acute respiratory tract infection are given a vaccine to stop them from developing influenza. Anti-viral is another option for adults, but it has side effects, warn doctors.

ENT specialists, too, are under patient pressure. “In some cases, the fever sets in a day later. I take the patient off other medication as soon as it becomes clear that the throat infection is part of the viral fever manifestation,” says ENT specialist Anirban Biswas.

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