Calcutta, Sept. 5: Bengal is in the grip of a dengue epidemic, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government announced today and Calcutta has reported the largest number of cases.
After briefing the chief minister, health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra told reporters at Writers’ Buildings this evening: “The number of dengue cases detected are way above normal, so the outbreak can be officially termed an epidemic.”
Other than dengue, malaria, typhoid, viral fever and encephalitis are also afflicting people, especially in Calcutta, Mishra said. In many cases, clinical diagnosis has become difficult as most of these diseases have similar symptoms.
“We have reasons to be concerned about the situation and have to be extremely careful in handling it. But we are on the alert,” the minister said.
According to the government, so far there have been 820 confirmed cases of dengue in the past month. Some others have been clinically diagnosed as dengue.
“Of the blood samples that have been sent for testing, about 40 per cent have turned out to be positive for dengue,” Mishra said. “We will get the reports of another hundred tests tomorrow.”
The situation is worst in Calcutta, where official figures state that 518 dengue cases have been detected. Cases have been reported also from Salt Lake, parts of North and South 24-Parganas, Howrah and Hooghly.
Almost every city hospital is handling patients complaining of fever and “dengue-like symptoms”. Medical College, NRS and RG Kar Hospital are each receiving about 50 suspected cases of dengue every day. Hospital authorities said they do not have the antigen kits to test dengue and all patients are being directed to the School of Tropical Medicine.
Mishra said sporadic cases of dengue have been reported in the state over the past few years with an annual average of 20 to 30. “These cases have been spread out with not more than one or two being reported from a particular area,” he said. “But it appears to have peaked this year.”
The Indian Medical Association says the warning was there for all to see. “The government could have nipped the problem in the bud had it acted earlier by destroying the breeding ground of the mosquitoes,” said R.D. Dubey, the joint secretary (headquarters) of the IMA.
“Now the mosquito population has reached critical density proportion, enough to cause an epidemic,” he said.
Referring to a World Health Organisation report, Mishra said five to 10 crore people are affected by dengue all over the world every year, out of which five lakh are reported to be haemorrhagic dengue, which can be fatal.
In 2003, 12,000 cases of dengue were reported in the country, of which a third were in Delhi and Haryana, another third in Kerala and Tamil Nadu and the remaining in the rest.
Mishra asked people not to ignore fever. “We are issuing publicity campaigns, informing people of the symptoms. One must take medical advice if they have fever. Experience shows how Delhi suffered for two years,” he said.