The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dengue cover-up to crisis
- Govt says past its control

Calcutta, Sept. 6: The dengue epidemic in the state is “beyond the control” of the government, health secretary Kalyan Bagchi said today.

“Dengue cases are going up daily and so are the deaths,” he said.

Bagchi said the number of dengue deaths had today touched 15, up from the 14 announced yesterday, while confirmed cases had risen to 925 from yesterday’s 820.

The crisis would not have occurred had the government and civic authorities not chosen to overlook the dengue cases that were reported from various parts of the state over the past decade. Routinely, they were shoved under the carpet as either viral fever or sometimes as “mystery fever”.

The government admits that since the 12 haemorrhagic dengue deaths in 1990, there have been similar “sporadic cases” ' about two or three ' every year.

“But these deaths were not of major concern as they were neither concentrated in one locality nor was there any significant increase in their numbers,” said Prabhakar Chatterjee, the director of health services.

“Whenever we received reports from local agencies, we launched vector control programmes to get rid of the dengue-causing Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes. This may not have been enough.”

Virologists of the School of Tropical Medicine say it is impossible for an epidemic of this proportion to break out if the mosquito population was under control.

“Mosquitoes have been thriving in ideal breeding grounds right under our noses in open water tanks and other water bodies. The mosquitoes have crossed the critical density level, which is an imaginary line for gauging an epidemic,” said a senior virologist.

The virologists blame the authorities, mainly the Calcutta Municipal Corporation’s health wing, for being either ignorant or indifferent.

“I am pretty certain that many of the cases of the so-called mystery fever were in reality dengue,” said Apurba Ghosh, director of the Institute of Child Health.

Children are especially vulnerable to dengue.

“From the reports I have received from city hospitals in the past couple of years, it is clear to me that dengue has been striking with increasing regularity for quite some time,” Ghosh said.

Virologists say vector control is poorly coordinated. Conditions for rapid growth of the mosquito population are also “ideal” ' stagnant water at construction sites.

The state has sought the help of the National Institute of Virology and the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases to combat the epidemic.

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