Eleven-year-old Deepika Pandey succumbed to haemorrhagic dengue at a private hospital on Sunday. Her death takes the toll from the disease to seven in the city. The condition of four other children is said to be critical.
In 1990, 12 persons had died and over 60 were admitted to hospitals with haemorrhagic dengue. But the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) has done little to destroy the breeding grounds of the dengue-causing Ades mosquito, and fears are that the toll this time may be much higher.
Subodh De, member of the mayoral council overseeing health, ascribed the dengue outbreak, mainly in south Calcutta, to the spawning of mosquitoes in scores of big and small housing projects and reservoirs constructed for these, excavation of roads, accumulated garbage and rooftops where water is allowed to collect.
Health experts have pinpointed three reasons for the dengue outbreak in south Calcutta pockets like Lake Gardens, Golf Green, Jadavpur, Bijoygarh, Dhakuria and Santoshpur:
4Several uncovered reservoirs at the sites of buildings under construction
4No effort on the part of local representatives of the civic body to remove accumulated water
4Indiscriminate digging at construction sites, causing water accumulation.
Even after six persons have died of dengue in the past three days, civic health officers have not found time to visit the affected areas.
To make matters worse, CMC officers admitted that neither was any contingency plan ready to counter dengue, nor did any infrastructure exist in terms of trained manpower or equipment to carry out elaborate medical tests.
'Since the CMC does not have any infrastructure, we have decided to appeal to all NGOs to come forward and help us destroy the breeding grounds of the Ades mosquito,' said , mayoral council member De.
A tour of the affected areas by Metro on Sunday revealed that no effort had been made to remove stagnated rainwater puddles from houses under construction or roads with potholes, where the Ades mosquito is born.
Air coolers, flower vases and water tanks and reservoirs are the real danger zones. A physician in Lake Gardens said he was receiving a large number patients with high fever. 'But all of them are not suffering from dengue. Only proper serological tests can confirm that one is suffering from dengue,' he said.
'There has been no awareness campaign by the CMC in our area,' said Nishith Sarkar, president, Lake Gardens People's Association. 'For the past six months, no CMC team has sprayed mosquito repellents in the area,' he complained.
Left with no alternative, local councillors are setting up medical camps on their own (photograph in graphic by Amit Datta).